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George Swede
Toronto, Simon & Pierre, 1991. 77pp, paper, $11.95
ISBN 0-88924-234-8. CIP

Grades 4 and up/Ages 9 and up

Reviewed by Maryleah Otto

Volume 20 Number 3
1992 May

In seventy-three poems and poetic phrases, some containing only four to seven words, George Swede combines content with form to create effects that are both visually and intellectually attractive. The poems, many of which are untitled, often focus on birds, fish, animals, trees, flowers or weather. For example,

Country hoedown
red bandana
around the throat
of the sky

Some are concerned with the many facets of human nature, especially its surprising contradictions, as in,

writing a poem
of longing for her

I'm irritated
by the interruption

of her phone call

A few are philosophical:

Our shadows
think we're
the hangers-on

Can you prove
they're wrong?

A lot of the poems play with words, this way:

Auk see jinn
Awk c gin
ox e gin

or this way:



One, called "The Party," is composed entirely of punctuation marks and math­ematical symbols. Swede frequently uses various forms of typescript for effect, mixing type sizes, upper- and lower-case letters, bold face, italics, etc. "Skyfuls of Snowflakes" is an excellent example of this technique.

The author is an unusually perceptive student of people and places. He sees our frailties and strengths as natural inevitabilities of the human condition which should neither be abhorred nor unduly overrated but taken with a grain of salt and a sense of humour. The voice of maturity speaks loudly in many of these poems but the teenage audience, at whom this collection is aimed, won't realize this. Instead, they will smile appreciatively and say "Right on!"

Yet can four words really constitute a poem? While "heat wave / tulips pouting" is original and evocative, it strikes me as a bit pretentious. Nevertheless, I Want to Lasso Time will be invaluable to teachers of creative writing and language arts from the middle elementary grades up.

Maryleah Otto, St. Thomas Public Library, St. Thomas, Ont.

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