Standing on holy ground, wearing shoes [Review of ...
|Title||Standing on holy ground, wearing shoes [Review of the book Landmarks: an anthology of new Atlantic Canadian poetry of the land, edited by Hugh MacDonald and Brent MacLaine]|
|Abstract||'Amid the chaos, confusion, and uncertainties of daily life, poems can show us where and how to find meaning... They orient us.' The ways in which this meaning is discovered through poetry have to do with intensity of speech, bright sharp language, the language of the human spirit as it moves through and tries to come to accommodation with the wild, the landscape. And there is precious little that lifts off the page in this collection. What you tend to hear is really only one mind--nostalgic, inward, self-reflecting, meditative--rather than the lively gabble of a kitchen party or the leap of the heart confronted with wildness or unearthing some lost traces of family history. Shauna McCabe, in 'Stream Trinity' writes: 'where mill stream / meets field / where water / meets land / where silver / meets gold / where blood / meets flesh / and where one ends / and the other begins/ becomes indistinguishable.' Too many of the poems here are indeed indistinguishable from the drone of most poetry published elsewhere in Canada. These are pertinent questions in approaching this collection of 87 new, unpublished poems by 50 contemporary writers from, or with strong ties to, the Atlantic Provinces. With no more than two or three pieces by each poet, this is not an anthology to showcase individual poets so much as to present the poems themselves. The collection is arranged in alphabetical order by poet, rather than in any thematic or chronological order. Given this presentation, there's a wonderful weird progression at work here, with one poem playing against the next in subtle ways. Tammy Armstrong's opening reminiscence of stacking firewood with her sister leads directly into Brian Bartlett's look at the memories caught in highly-polished wood grain. Joe Blades, Lesley Choyce, Sue MacLeod, Annie Hayes and Robin McGrath strew, throughout the book, echoes of the discovery of things left behind in the earth. Crows, herons, foxes, seals, gulls, rabbits, even hummingbirds personify both land and attitudes in poem after poem. You could read this book as one long hymn to the struggle 'against the process of forgetting' as Matt Robinson writes in 'Winter Felt'. This emphasis on memory, on the past, is what gives the book a shape, almost a narrative.|
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