Collections depict three different approaches to poetry

Elizabeth Cran
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Peter Sanger is well-known in Nova Scotia for both his prose and his poetry.

On the occasion of his 70th birthday, Gaspereau Press has republished his first two volumes of poetry, Earth Moth and America Reel, in one volume at $25.95.

Originally, these collections appeared respectively in 1991 and 1983.

Also included in the present volume are 24 poems which predate those in the two collections and have never been published. The group is called Sealskin. A short essay entitled Log-slate also appears in this book.

Sanger’s book is not only by far the largest, but the most remarkable and, frequently, the most beautiful.

It’s the most original. too. From the beginning of his career, his outlook on life — and the universe itself — has been markedly different from that of most people. One of the epigraphs to this collection, Rilke’s What is time? When is the present?, already gives us a taste of his outlook.

 In Sealskin, one of the hitherto unpublished poems, title The Man in the Woods, shows us a little more: "As if he were the only / one original he’s almost / always called the man / in the woods..." "No / one I’ve met knows more / than you know now what / heedful instincts spur him / to his cave, / while spreading / jet streams wave out overhead."

Two younger poets’ work is also reviewed here this week. One is How the gods pour tea (icehouse poetry, Goose Lane, $19.95). This is Lynn Davies’ third collection.

The other, Emergency Kit: Poetry for Survival, by Dianne Birt (KKP printers, Charlottetown, $11.95) is a first collection by a mental health counsellor who has not previously published.

How the gods pour tea consists mostly of nature poems with a difference. There’s a touch of history in some of them, more of myth and imagination.

Her subjects are often unusual in themselves — headless snowmen wearing sunglasses, a woman knitting, a different way of looking at numbers, tails. This little book grows on the reader. At first it seems conventional, but, as with a scene in nature, the more you look, the more you find.

Emergency Kit by the youngest of these three poets is also the most conventional. Everyone has read of unhappy love affairs, many readers have experienced them.

Most of the poems here are about one. However, the poems show promise, and the author may, if she wishes, develop into an interesting poet.


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 is: 95 Orange Street, Apt. 101, Saint John NB, E2L 1M5. or call her at 506-693-5498.



Organizations: Gaspereau Press, The Man, The Guardian

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Charlottetown, 95 Orange Street

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