CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Oakville (Ont.), Mosaic Press, 1990. 90pp, paper, $10.95
ISBN 0-88962-475-5. CIP

Reviewed by L. Maingon.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

This collection of six prominent poets of the national capital immediately raises the question of an Ottawa group a la Bloomsbury. If so, the only real common theme of the collection is boredom, which befits the hub of the gross national product. In fact, the flaw of this collection is that it neither represents Ottawa nor has any unity to give it a raison d'etre. It is mainly an exercise in publication. The title misleads the reader because it should be Six Ottawa English Poets, since even Claude Paradox writes in English.

The redeeming aspect of this volume is the calibre of most of the poetry selected. It is representative of some of the best work of the authors. It is, nonetheless, only with Dabydeen and Frutkin that one senses the pulse of the capital in the eyes of its civil servants. Dabydeen's "Halloween at the Gover­nor General's" thoroughly confirms the national sentiment that this nation has been led by a bunch of clowns for the past eight years. With Frutkin one moves into a more serious vein of poetry, although one senses that Frutkin has not found his voice. The over­shadow of John Ashberry suffuses his verse and makes it sound like Ottawa's architecture, a tyranny of imported styles.

It is with Seymour Mayne that one reaches a plateau of the collection. The thematics of Mayne hinge on a question­ing of mythologies and a midrashic rejection of their influence. One senses in Mayne a powerful grasp of a cabba­listic tradition, which enables him to see and express the wholeness of being. This comes through powerfully in "The Oranges of Sicily," where the delight of the fruit is also the agony of the traveller who eats it. Poems like "Dying Seals in the North Sea" and "One" articulate a profound ecological consciousness that transcends the provincial tone of the collection.

Paradox's poetry is incidental and throws the reader back to the less appealing aspects of our capital. Enid Delgatty Rutland, the senior poet of the collection, returns to more domestic scenery, which could belong anywhere in Canada. Nicola Vulpe closes the anthology with a very powerful state­ment of poetics.

On the whole, this anthology is not recommendable. .It seems to have no common theme and no ostensible purpose and definitely does not repre­sent the cultural diversity of Ottawa. Furthermore, poetry is generally successful if it is conceived as books of poetry, gatherings of poetic pieces that share and develop a particular sense of unity, where each poem gives the reader a different perspective on what Frutkin calls "sounds with vision". It would therefore be better for the reader to go out and read these poets' works indi­vidually.

L. Maingon, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works