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Blais, Marie-Claire.

Montreal, Signal Editions, c1984. 181pp. Paper, $9,95. ISBN 0-919890-54-07. Distributed by Véhicule Press, P.O. Box 125, Place du Parc Station, Montreal, Que., H2W 2M9. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 14 Number 1
1986 January

Reading Marie-Claire Blais's poetry is like reading her novels. The bitterness, the despair, and the struggle to define the borders between right and wrong, inner and outer, are all there, and more. It is an uneasy vision and an uncomfortable journey. The poems in Veiled Countries/ Lives were originally published in French in 1964, and they have stood the test of time. The work is just as provoking and intense today as it was more than twenty years ago. What is so striking about the collection is its simplicity and economy of language, a powerful combination. For example, "Peace," an almost prayer-like poem with undertones of hope:

We were alone on these roads
when, come towards us
like a beautiful, veiled country,
this song, this graceful plaint
of thanksgiving.

There is a war underway within the pages of Veiled Countries/Lives, and as with any war, there is much suffering. There is also the suggestion of life after war, and the anguish that often overcomes all those who have taken part. In "The Dry Season," Blais writes:

Now counted among
The benumbed, the parched,
we waited, still waited
Forgive us our eyes
for having seen
so many things
motionless and without protest.

But Blais does not end the war here. She ultimately returns to the one emotion that makes the struggle bearable, hope.

Open you unfeeling heart...
Sing softly
and ready the table.

In Veiled Countries/Lives, as elsewhere, life goes on.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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