________________ CM . . . . Volume IV Number 18 . . . . May 8, 1998

cover Romanian Suite.

Kenneth Radu.
Vancouver, BC: Brick Books, 1996.
69 pp., paperback, $12.95.
ISBN 0-919626-89-0.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Willa Walsh.

*** /4


I descend from a people chased by wolves through tangled forests, a people who blew panpipes by day until their hearts blossomed like flowers and they did not think so much music could rise out of the fields, out of centuries of labour, people who told stories of the wolf, the vampire, the devil.
This third book of poetry by Kenneth Radu (of Romanian descent) reflects the recent history of Romania by using the images and metaphors and dark traditions of the past. The poems are peopled by vampires, Dracula, Prince Vlad, the Devil, the tragic Romanian pianists Dinu Lipatti and Radu Lupu - both dead at an early age - and an unnamed gardener. These are symbols of the tragic recent history of a land racked by famine, disease, desolation, and oppression, with a Devil at the helm, and a scant hope of redemption for the future. The book begins with the section entitled "Tales from the Crypt" and with an introductory poem featuring the gardener musing over the images of Romanian children whose eyes are "darker than death."

      The cover photograph is of a palace which looks like a prison. The images are predominantly of death, putrefaction, starvation, and "unrestrained slaughter." They country is a vast cemetery where the Dark Forces prevail. The poet's purpose "is the poetry of resurrection." The poems would be narrowly "political" if the images and metaphors were not universal and descriptive of the human condition everywhere - only heightened in this one country and at this one time. The faces of these starving, misshapen children were everywhere as the media showed us the horrifying conditions perpetrated in Romania by the despotic, decadent rule of Ceausescu.

      The last poem is of a wedding feast featuring a cornucopia of rich, spicy food with every dish imaginable displayed and with the open invitation to come and partake - especially invited are the children so used to "gruel and weak tea."

      The poems are accessible, powerful and would suit high school students in English courses or creative writing courses. They could also be used in Social Studies courses dealing with modern, European history - they give voice to the anguish of politics gone wrong.


Willa Walsh is a high school teacher-librarian in Richmond, British Columbia.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © 1998 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