About the book

  • Winner of the Jewish Book Award for Poetry — Henry Fuerstenberg-Betty and Morris Aaron Award

Of Petrushkin!, Ron Charach's last book, The Globe & Mail wrote: "These poems remind us how effective narrative and anecdote can be in poetry. They owe more to Chekhov and I.B. Singer than to Yeats and Wallace Stevens. Charach's use of language is not dazzling; it is unobtrusive and utilitarian because his goal—something rare nowadays—is to say something about the human condition. And he says it with a voice notable for its compassion and humour."

In his new collection, Dungenessque, Charach builds on his strength as a storyteller, infusing his poems with the metaphoric intensity that characterized his first book, The Big Life Painting. One by one, the matrices of our identity—physical, sexual, relational and cultural—are shown to be as pitiable and as strangely noble as the bold character armour that conceals them. Dungenessque is a compelling study of pride, shame and redemption. With the insight of a practising therapist and the skill of a surgeon, Charach removes the outer shell that protects us from each other to explore those vulnerable areas in which the embattled self resides. Dungenessque is Charach's sixth collection of poems.

“A practising psychiatrist and the author of six previous volumes of poetry, Charach deftly manages to combine psychological insight with dextrous word play. Charach’s voice is pliant and sonorous; sinuosity of thought flowers into deep and true feeling. This is an impressive and engaging collection.” —Canadian Jewish News

About the author

Charach, Ron

Ron Charach was born and raised in Winnipeg, and educated in medicine and psychiatry in Winnipeg, Toronto and New York, completing his training in child and adolescent psychiatry at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in 1980.

Charach's poetry has appeared in most Canadian literary journals, as well as in The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine, and in the anthology of world physician poetry, Blood & Bone, published by the University of Iowa Press.

Charach's poems have won praise from prize-winning poets as diverse as Roo Borson, Don Coles and Don Mckay.


Listen to Ron Charach reading the title poem from 'Dungenessque' (1:09)

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Listen to Ron Charach reading 'Thank You' from 'Dungenessque' (0:25)

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Listen to Ron Charach reading 'R.D. Laing' from 'Dungenessque' (1:53)

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Dungeness, Washington, The Olympic Peninsula

Crack me open like a crab
amused at the strange soft fur along my shell.
Tour my body
find the emotional limits,
dredge my character
for small signs of pretense;
you know they're there.
Haven't others glimpsed claws
beneath my hands?
You listen so closely,
stretching out my present against my past
on a long net, laying bare

Boil me live
in a scalding cauldron
like you would a crab,
turning your head
as the claws fold in silently
and you wait for the soft clicking sound.
You can eat me tonight or tomorrow, or the next night.
because the cooking's done;
all that's left is to analyze
what can and can't be consumed.
Tomorrow you and your analyst
will pick through the bowl of white flesh
from my brittle compartments.
There may be a joke or two,
'Who'd have thought the old boy
would have so much meat in him?'


Ant and Aphid

Along a cedar crosspiece on my garden gate,
they move past in deadly duet.
A carpenter ant lugs a bright green aphid,
its legs waving weakly in the breeze,
and climbs the thick stalk of ivy
to its nest under the warm wet eaves.


This tiniest of nature’s victims,
does it leave descendants, a work history,
even if no clock was punched?
At its sudden violent passing
will there be testimonials,
or co-religionists
obsessively scouring the garden square
for signs of massacred remains?

Have not hired ladybugs
headstrong and pretty as gaily painted tanks
carried out such ethnic cleansing?

A red-winged songbird swoops down,
plucks both ant and prey from the ivy
and soars skyward
—a miraculous ascent?

This morning, awaking,
at once I knew I no longer had skin,
that everything and everyone who passed my way
would move me,
the world’s pain as much as its beauty.

And look! The solar clematis
sprung up along the fence
are beaming apricot-white faces,
petals boldly unfurled,
determined as any natural thing
whose hours are numbered.


Ron Charach's poems have, I think, no parallel in their willingness to display the conjoined workings of an effortlessly literate and ironic mind. >>

— Don Coles

The title of Ron Charach's Dungenessque is extremely revealing, becoming a metaphor that unifies the entire collection. In the title poem, the speaker invites us to 'Crack [him] open like a crab/amused at the strange soft fur along my shell.'… >>

Event, The Douglas College Review

Charach's voice is pliant and sonorous; sinuosity of thought flowers into deep and true feeling. this is an impressive and engaging collection. >>

The Canadian Jewish News

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