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Acorn, Milton.

Edited by James Deahl. Toronto, Aya Press, 1988. G4pp, paper, $8.00. ISBN 0-920544-60-6. CIP

Grades 11 and up /Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey

Volume 17 Number 3
1989 May

Milton Acorn is a Canadian poet worth knowing. The thirty-three poems in this collection were discovered and put together after his recent death. It's a small collection, a small habitation for a big spirit; it might be a good introduction for someone who does not know his previous work, because the pieces come from all periods of Acorn's writing life. There are structured, familiar entrances—sonnet, haiku, four-line stanzas—and there are rough, hacked-out openings. But once inside, the reader forgets the form. There are both light and warmth and darker places with a chill:

Eyeless singer. They singed out his
sight with charcoal, and pierced to the
nerve of song.

Of the recent, well-known Canadian poets, Milton Acorn might come closest to a student's romantic notion of a poet. He sold his carpenter's tools over thirty years ago and published his first book of poems himself. He plunged headlong into the life of a poet and wandered and drank and sang until his death.

The last ten pages of this slim book contain an essay. "My Philosophy of Poetry." in which Milton Acorn struggles to trap some elusive creatures like "choice and poetry" and "politics and poetry" and keep them in a cage with the tame critters like similes, metaphors, conceits and diction. Some students might find something useful in his examination of the tame ones.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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