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EVERSON AT EIGHTY: POEMS

R. G. Everson.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1983.
136pp, paper, $19.50 (cloth), $9.95 (paper).
ISBN 0-88750-481-7 (cloth), 0-88750-482-5 (paper).


Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by Anne Leonard.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May


R.G. Everson, author of several books of poetry, retains at eighty his vigorous style, keen observation, and taut imagery in this recently published work, Everson at Eighty. Poet Al Purdy, in a rather discursive anecdotal introduction, speaks of Everson's "odd combination of qualities," and, in fact, this collection reflects an odd combination of independent poems. There is no attempt at sequencing or grouping, nor is there even a table of contents. The reader is forced to give each poem undivided attention as the author shifts time, place, and mood from one poem to the next. Each poem emerges as an independent entity, like a little epiphany, characterized by durable language, concrete images and subtle reflection. The following poems would appeal to students at the grades 9 and 10 level as well as to older readers: "Civilization," "Child with Shell," "Winter Evening After Leaving the Theatre," "Hunt," "Immortal Dreams," "Pauper Woodland," "L'Orignal," "Beyond is Too Far," and "Report for Northrop Frye." In these poems there is a strong independent voice; in "Report for Northrop Frye," for example, the author describes the making of a tunnel through Labrador granite and relates that event to writing, because the poet too must hew out new space:

        We bring our own light to a dark place
        Crowbar, sledgehammer, pick
        pound Labrador granite.
        We make sounds from Arctic silence
        Life is here and nowówe bring it.
        We bring men's laughter and good sense.

Evenson's "own light" penetrates the lot of humankind: work, suffering, death; it illumines Canadian history and landscape, making stars look like a "huge herd of buffaloes" and winds "taste fire-crackery." A carefully controlled scene is described in the last four lines of "Pauper Woodland," and one is left with a sense of a fire burning at the heart of creation its light glowing as dusk turns to night:

        November we found a stranger cutting
        wood
        as the scrub darkened to forest. All
        around him
        yellow sawdust hit the frozen ground
        and at the centre of radiance the man's
        red smile.

At eighty years of age, Everson has published a collection of poems whose lines are strong and youthful and at the same time reflective and supple.


Anne Leonard, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Montreal, QB.
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