Poetry from the west to cen­tral Canada

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ENTERTAINMENT - El­iz­a­beth Cran is a free­lance writer who writes a book re­view col­umn for The Guardian. To com­ment or to send her books to re­view, write her at her new ad­dress: 95 Or­ange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5, or call her at 506-693-5498.

Th­ese poetry col­lec­tions come from an is­land off the Bri­tish Columbia coast to the Prairies and come in time from 1970 to 2015.

The first one, “Forecast” by John Pass (Har­bour Pub­lish­ing, Madeira Park, B.C. $18.95), is an out­stand­ing col­lec­tion gath­ered to­gether from 20 years of work, 1970-1990. The other, “The Year of Our Beau­ti­ful Ex­ile” by Monica Kidd (Gaspereau, $19.95), is less re­mark­able, but still worth read­ing. Al­though the au­thor was born, and lives with her chil­dren in Alberta, she seems to have trav­elled as far east as Mon­treal, where as Pass seems rooted on the West Coast.

Chil­dren, es­pe­cially small ones, are a theme com­mon to both writ­ers. Both seem to re­gard their lit­tle ones with awe and ap­pre­ci­a­tion, an un­usual at­ti­tude, at least in lit­er­a­ture. An­other char­ac­ter­is­tic of Pass’ work is that it’s al­most like a diary. No dates or times, of course, but mo­ments caught here and there, not at ran­dom.

Here is a good, fairly early ex­am­ple, called The Lights: The first time I tried to write, need­ing to, // It was about

the lights. / They were my lights, com­ing

on // in shadow length­en­ing / along the flank /

of the high ridge across // the river / I re­mem­ber

look­ing up // the word ca­ress / for its spell­ing.

This lit­tle poem demon­strates other char­ac­ter­is­tics of Pass’ style. The vo­cab­u­lary is or­di­nary, yet it con­veys a pic­ture and some feel­ing, con­tained, not sloppy. The poem is not rhymed at all, but it sounds mu­si­cal, whether read aloud or in the mind. And it shows al­most any in­ci­dent can be­come a poem.

This makes any of Pass’ po­ems seem al­most more Oriental than Western. Even peo­ple who “don’t like poetry” may care to take a glance at Forecast. It’s not quite like any poetry they may have seen in school.

Kidd’s po­ems, on the other hand, cover a wider range of sub­jects. A look at the list of ti­tles will make this clear; Achilles, Af­ter­math NYC,...A makeshift mar­tini shaker, A new course, Ar­boreus, etc.

Un­der the ti­tle In­te­rig­i­nous, sub­ti­tled Po­ems for Evo­lu­tion, she groups eight po­ems of vary­ing lengths, each headed by a quotation from Dar­win’s “On the Ori­gin of Species”; they com­mem­o­rate Dar­win’s 200th birth­day in 2009.

An­other group of po­ems was in­spired by the great floods of June 2013 in Alberta, which dis­placed 100,000 peo­ple. There are 13 pages of short prose-po­ems with ti­tles such as Dan­gle, Raining Cats and A New Course.

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