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Poirier, Thelma and Jean Hillabold.

Moose Jaw, Coteau Books, c1984. 72pp, paper, $6.00, ISBN 0-919926-32-9, (The Wood Mountain series #1) Distributed by Thunder Creek Publishing Co-operative.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

Why read the poetry of only one new poet when you can read the work of two? That's the idea behind Double Visions, a collection of poetry by prairie writers Thelma Poirier and Jean Hillabold. It's a good idea. Unfortunately, the poetry isn't as good as the idea.

Poirier, the stronger of the two poets, uses powerful images, especially Indian and nature images, realistically and movingly. Her poems, for the most part, are well-timed and rhythmic. Take, for example, these lines from "Sunday Twice"

I could crawl into the cedar chest
with quilts and pillows close
the lid and lie
softly dead in the dark
while my mother played
Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?

However, the ending to this poem, like most of Poirier's work, is weak. She takes the easy way out. She doesn't search for answers. Instead we get flippancy on a silver platter:

moccasins wear out
lovers die
now I sew beads on rosaries
crosses on pale leather
(from "my name is Toniya Wakanwin").

The tautest poem in Poirier's collection is the lengthy "a year to learn," about the responsibilities, loneliness and fears of an isolated prairie school teacher. Here Poirier awakens the dread all women share and creates an atmosphere of menace—and reality. It is exactly the kind of good, solid poetry that readers will come back to, time and time again.

They will not find much memorable, however, in Jean Hillabold's work. Most of the poems are strained and stilted. The words, the images and the rhythm don't flow evenly, or easily.

As well, Hillabold gets too caught up in rhyming words and forgets about content. For example, the opening verse from "To Whom It May Concern"

To you, all skin seems Biblical
A blessing or a curse.
You find it overwhelming.
I think we good do worse.

There is raw emotion here. Hillabold has plenty of that. But raw emotion is simply not enough for good poetry.

donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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