Said the River.
Liz Zetlin. Drawings by Janis Hoogstraten.
Review by Jo-Anne Mary Benson.
At first glance, one would assume that this work is just a standard work of poetry. After the initial reading, however, this reviewer discovered Said the River to be a highly complex and unusual collaboration that celebrates the life and writings of Isabella Valancy Crawford who published in the period 1870-1875.
Poet Liz Zetlin immediately presents her poetry without the aid of an "Introduction" or "Preface" to explain the objective of her collection of poems. However, at the book's conclusion, she offers an introduction to the main characters, an "Afterword" that describes how she became inspired to undertake this book and finally an informational "Timeline" from 1845 to 1897. Having read this book several times, I felt that readers would benefit by having all this information at the very beginning of the book. Instead, readers become immediately immersed in the text and are left to meander aimlessly forward, trying to piece together the people and places while also attempting to make sense of the poet's work and her objective.
In addition to drawing heavily on research, including historical records, Zetlin took a trip to the Saugeen River, a locale where Crawford may have travelled. No doubt, this event helped Zetlin better appreciate one of Crawford's many sources of inspiration. However, the fact that Zetlin not only writes as if she were Crawford, herself, but also via the perspectives of the various other characters, makes the poetry confusingly abstruse.
Though Janis Hoogstraten is highly qualified to illustrate any work, in Said the River the ill defined, obscure drawings unfortunately detract from the poetry.
People read to be entertained, and, although many of the poems stand well on their own and the concept of the book is worthwhile, numerous elements of Said the River are puzzling. For these reasons, the book is not recommended.
Jo-Anne Mary Benson, is a writer/reviewer for North American books, magazines, newspapers, and journals.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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