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Michael J. Yates.

Moonbeam (ON), Penumbra Press, c1983.
91pp, paper, $7.95.
ISBN 0-920806-58-9.

Reviewed by Tony Cosier.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

These meditations roughly take the shape of a story depicting the narrator's flight from war-time memories, overwork, alcoholism, and domestic strife into the remote Queen Charlotte Islands where he can be lost and never found. In his opening line, J. Michael Yates tells us, "This winter in which you find me is not your winter," and he continues self-consciously to alienate his reader throughout the volume. Despite this, there are features of his work that attract. The chronological arrangement of the narrative portions puts a simple plot-hook into the piece. The mixing of these sections with image clusters (birds in one section, trees in another, then flames, then rocks) gives a sense of coherence. Yates often captures physical reality in language rich in sound: "Hoarfrost whiskers the weather-silvered planking of the wharf." Some of the characters we meet are interesting. The landscape draws the imagination.

Primarily, though, the narrator plays his own grim game. His is the "loosing of the mind to hunt the mind." We remember his private horrors, contemplate his suicide. We think on his "sacred worthlessness," weigh "thunderbolts of words," always following the obscure and heavy introspective in hyperbolic terms, as if, despite the overt attempts to alienate, he wishes us to regard his voyage as the Colonel Joel H. Yates of the poet's dedication does, with "immense dread."

At the poem's end, the narrator leaves us entirely, saying "I am/Where lost things go/Until they are/And never/Found." However, the overall format of the volume suggests that this is hardly to be the last the readers will hear from Yates. There is, after all, the photograph of the author smirking lounging in what seem comfortable surroundings sporting a T-shirt marked Captain Snappo. And there is a hint of other works by the author with similar gloomy titles such as "Hunt in an Unmapped Interior" and "The Great Bear Lake Meditations," suggesting that the author who is posing at being lost enough to find himself is in truth much given to speaking and telling us where he is.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H. S., Nepean, ON.
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