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John Terpstra

Windsor (Ont.), Netherlandic Press, 1990. 80pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-919417-20-5.
Distributed by Moonstone Press, 46 Nelson St. W., Goderich, Ontario N7A2M3. CIP

Reviewed by Doug Watling.

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

Naked Trees is billed as a poetry collection. The medium is prose, but the sensibility behind the book is poetic.

Naked Trees is divided into three parts, or at least two principal sections and one sub-unit. "On the Street Where She Lived," the opening segment, is the most off the cuff of the three. It docu­ments the lives of neighbourhood trees and their spiritual hold on surroundings and inhabitants. There's an illusion of objectivity, but one vanished tree unsettles... well, everything: "A loss of equilibrium. And the entire street feels less secure." Call it the mystique of the everyday.

Section 2, "A Deciduary," is quite different. It's a lexicon of tree lore gathered under titles on the order of "headiness" (the tree as table) and "transpirations." Terpstra calls it a "compendium." Tough to describe, but very idiosyncratic and beautifully done. The offshoot of this section is "Varie­ties," in which Terpstra celebrates the Black Walnut (amongst others) and moves on to encompass utility poles and a solitary oak at the junction of Guelph Line and the Queen Elizabeth Way in southern Ontario. History is brought to bear in a big way.

It's difficult to capture the exact flavour of Naked Trees. The writing bristles with knowledge, respect, hard sentiment and humour. As Terpstra notes, "A tree either is the view or blocks it." The pages of this book are rife with felicitous bits of writing, but Terpstra ensures that every little rhapsody gets toppled to earth by reality. Through sheer writing muscle, Terpstra elevates his subjects to near-sainthood without sanctifying their presence. Trees never had it so good.

Doug Watling, West Credit Secondary School, Mississauga, Ont.
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