CM April 26, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 28

image Year Zero.

Brian Henderson.
London, ON: Brick Books, 1995. 62pp, paper, $11.95.
ISBN: 0-919626-77-7.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Maryleah Otto.



     Shadow Lake

Darkness. The lake
with its language of swallowed things

Sick with distance, they
circle back
as if following a shoreline

They rise from the centre

The air is rich with unfinishedness

Things want to be free
without having to be lost

THE FORTY-ONE POEMS in Brian Henderson's Year Zero are concerned with the mysteries of life and death, specifically of dying and being born. The poet draws on the experiences of losing family members and close friends, and later, of the birth of his children, to create this work, his eighth collection of poetry.

     There is a sculpted, perhaps carved, quality about these poems; they have three-dimensional form that makes them seem more like charming figurines than words on a page.

     Henderson's pain when faced with so much grief is startlingly convincing, as is his awe at the birth of a baby. The imagery is often surprising, always exacting. The emotions are raw, powerful, devoid of all sentimentality.

image     But I have two misgivings about these poems. First, they are frequently obscure. Second, Henderson's free verse sometimes seems to slide into actual prose -- as in these lines, which are laid out as such:

Flung out. I can't really imagine that final flungoutwardness. The Chinese elm spends itself in a storm of seeds that the steep noon sun seems to make clatter with light. You are spilled. Released.

Prose or poetry? Perhaps it's time for a new definition.

     Still, this title may interest teachers of English in college or senior secondary schools.

Recommended with reservations.

Maryleah Otto is a writer and former children's librarian in Toronto. She has had four books for children published since 1985.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364