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Don Coles.

Toronto, Macmillan, c1982.
77pp, paper, $7.95.
ISBN 0-7715-9707-X.

Reviewed by Steven Wells.

Volume 10 Number 4.
1982 November.

Dennis Lee once remarked that Don Coles is "the best unknown poet in the country." Now, with the publication of his third collection, Coles deserves public recognition.

Coles, a teacher at York University, spent twelve years in Europe, and his poems abound with references to European places, art, history, and authors. This "New World" poet relies on "Old World" allusions to explore the theme of past versus present.

Coles reveals the impact of time upon human consciousness. In "Abandoned Lover," "Collecting Pictures," and "Landslides," adults are haunted by memories. In one fine poem, "I Long for People Through Whom the Past," he describes an archetypal family event, Christmas dinner, and remembers the fate of family members: the slow death of his mother and the uncle "who let his car's exhaust/Fill him up in his garage."

In the title poem, "The Prinzhorn Collection," a Browning-like narrator delivers a powerful dramatic monologue while interpreting art and letters by mental patients. Narrative technique draws the reader/listener deep into the poem, forcing us to redefine our concept of sanity. As the narrator observes, this poem is "strong stuff."

Coles is a poetic craftsman with a sure sense of language, imagery, and metaphor. His mature, evocative poems linger in the reader's mind like old memories.

Steven Wells, Elliot Lake S. S., Elliot Lake, ON.
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