Poetry from the west to central Canada

Elizabeth Cran
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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.

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.

Organizations: The Guardian

Geographic location: Alberta, Canada, British Columbia Madeira Park Gaspereau Montreal Kidd Saint John

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