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Van de Walle, Elly.

Vancouver, Press Gang Publishers, c1984. 52pp, paper, $5.95, ISBN 0-88974-026-7. CIP

Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 13 Number 1
1985 January

In 1976 Elly Van de Walle discovered she had breast cancer, and subsequently lost a breast. Falling From Grace, her first collection of poetry, is her attempt to recreate the pain, fear, anger and grief she felt then, and for years afterwards. Unfortunately, it is not a highly successful attempt.

The poems are predictable and, to a large extent, so are the emotions she writes about. Too often the words on paper do not transmit the feelings to the reader. In "Morning Sickness," for example, Van de Walle tells us how it feels to be pregnant knowing you have cancer but she does not lead us to feel the emotions. We understand the opening verses on an intellectual level, but we are not moved on a gut level:

A marriage, a child
another in the making.
The terrible reality of it
submerges me this morning
drowning the day's purpose.
Will I lead this undertaking
to its satisfactory conclusion?
Will I live to see it through?

Not all of Van de Walk's poetry is so removed; in fact, within many of her poems there are glimmers of strength. In "Summing Up," these lines reach the reader, as good poetry is meant to do: "I cannot speak in poetic images of this./I can only write the words/stark and unforgiving./She died./I did not./A fluke."

But in the end, these glimmers are not enough. Reading Falling From Grace is like listening to a biological lecture on human reproduction. In your heart, you know there is much more to it than that.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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