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Marshall, Tom.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1984. 48pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-531-7 (cloth) $17.95, 0-88750-532-5 (paper) $9.95.

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Sister Anne Leonard

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

Playing With Fire is a poetic sequence of thirty parts, composed of couplets and single-line stanzas. The fragmented effect, accentuated by the short, sometimes unfinished lines, the space between the stanzas, and the half to two-thirds blank pages, challenges the reader to stay with the image.

The dominant image is that of the children's dreamfields. The dreamfield is the future and the present of the dreamchild, and "the dreamchild is only/myself." The poet questions the word "only," as if he realizes that all of us dream and our dreams are "of fields where children dance." (p.29) The repetition of the image of the dreamfield is haunting.

There is an agony that runs through this sequence. It comes from the vision of our world at the mercy of nuclear warfare, corrupted by acid rain, because "the physicists have known sin/Like boys playing with matches." (p.43) Christ's words in the garden of Gethsemane are echoed and answered, with the full effect of the agony and responsibility that is not to be shirked:

Who will take this cup away If not ourselves?

Tom Marshall was chief editor of Quarry in its formative years and is now poetry editor of Canadian Forum. His latest publications include The Silence of Fire (1969); The Psychic Mirror, a study of poems of D.H. Lawrence (1970); AM Klein: A Critical Work (1970); Magic Water (1971); The Earth-Book (1974) and The White City (1976). His poetry has appeared in several Canadian magazines, and he reads his own poetry on the recording, Four Kingston Poets. In this latest work, Playing With Fire, Tom Marshall writes with a sense of urgency. He feels like a voice crying in the wilderness in the face of a nuclear holocaust.

Sister Anne Leonard, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Halifax, N.S.
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