Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Coastlines, the Poetry of Atlantic Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Coastlines, the Poetry of Atlantic Canada

Article excerpt

Anne Compton, Laurence Hutchman, Ross Leckie and Robin McGrath (eds), Coastlines, The Poetry of Atlantic Canada (Goose Lane Editions, New Brunswick, 2002), 311pp. Paper. $22.95. ISBN 0-8649-2313-9.

If you read this collection of poems for anything, read it for a celebration of how poets can translate nature into words and through that translation endow landscape, seascape and wildlife with a voice, not only metaphorical, but literal. The result is a memorable and quotable compilation of poems written by poets with a drive to tell stories and not merely harangue the reader with loosely juxtaposed images. The anthology assumes an honest tone, free of pretension. For me the collection is guided by two messages: 'Ringed by dark palisades / of spruce and this cold, black / bowl of water, I understand again/ about words' (p. 180) and 'Poetry is an island breaking away from the main' (p. 118). In the predominant focus on nature, and its personification, poets from each island rediscover and realise nature as a powerful resource and point of departure from which to argue their identity. The immediacy and drama of nature's beauty and brutality is significant; the combination of hostility, butchery, grace and companionship play an intrinsic part of daily patterns and rituals, and the language ricochets accordingly. One moment the reader is secure 'in the cigarette glow of men / who'd been told by the gulls / there was fish' (p. …

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