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Brian Fawcett.

Vancouver, Talonbooks, c1982.
132pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-88922-187-1.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Sister Anne Leonard.

Volume 11 Number 6.
1983 November.

As a poet Fawcett believes that his writing can help to change the world, while at the same time he recognizes that poetry is a private art. His most powerful poems are those that appear as personal meditations. From 1979-1982, he taught English and creative writing at the federal penitentiaries of Kent, Matsqui, and William Head. It is not surprising then to find the poet dwelling on "cruel fantasies," for he had seen plenty of these in the prisoners' writings.

The poems collected in Aggressive Transport are the fruit of Brian Fawcett's writing between the years 1975 and 1982. On the back of the frontispiece and hidden among the cataloguing data is a curious sentence: "This book is meant to be read as the current state of the author's understanding rather than a collection of aesthetic artifacts." Such a comment, however, reveals the voice of the poems: disturbed, honest, somewhat ironic. Brian Fawcett is a serious political poet, committed to humanity.

The first twenty-six poems are subtitled "The Transformation of the Rose," while the rest are included under the title proper "Aggressive Transport." In the first part, there are two poems of different themes with the title "Transformation of the Rose"; the first deals with the loss of human love "without scent or colour,'' and the second with the effect of capitalism and "the black petals of industry's rose." These two themes and the symbol of the rose recur throughout this collection.

Recently, Brian Fawcett has turned to writing narrative; his work, My Career With the Maple Leafs, has just been published in 1983. He said that his reason for changing was that he wanted to talk to more people. "Nobody reads poetry. I think those writers who call themselves public poets, the poets of the people are whistling in the dark." In "Lament," Fawcett expresses this sense of whistling in the dark:

         Maybe this is the last century in which
         poets will make speech of such things.

And "such things" are the things of nature, the trees and the stars and the moon. In "The Hand," Fawcett uses the image of the butterfly set free from the cupped hands of his son as a symbol that Beauty should never be held captive:

         I told my son to let the butterfly go
         that it has a message to deliver
         in the several days of life it has

         that this is no world
         to make such beauty captive.

He feels that perhaps Art has betrayed Beauty when conquering nations repatriated art treasures and kept them captive or when Art became so absorbed in Beauty that it ignored "the terrible facts of the world" going on at the same time. Today some of those terrible facts are hunger in plenty, over-production, and acid fog.

Those poems that succeed best are those whose lyrical passages sustain by their rhythm a message of hope. A fine lyric is "The Poem for Jesse"; the poet takes his young son, Jesse, down to the sea: "to tempt (his) heart with tales/of other kinds of worlds, tonight/with creatures wild and gentle who live tangled in the path of moonlight/joined this night with ours." In "The Fit Subject for Poetry" the poet uses the unrhymed couplets; while he appears to be making a statement, he never loses his lyrical gift:

         The words from which the future
         must be built

         are all around. I feel them
         touching down like leopards

         in white scarves, or spacecraft
         in the moonlight

         landing on the common darkened

Brian Fawcett has left us in this volume an aesthetic artifact as well as the understanding of one committed to fulfil his vision of re-inventing the world:

         Hunger in plenty
         Plenty in hunger
         The world must be re-invented
         even though it break the tattered
         that build whatever home we know
         beneath the acid fog that rises
         from the garbage piling up.
         (Freeway Ode)

Sister Anne Leonard, Religious of the Sacred Heart, Montreal, QC.
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