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Gustafson, Ralph.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1984.96pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-7710-3709-0. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Clare A. Darby

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

Ralph Gustafson's first book of poetry, The Golden Chalice, appeared in 1935. In the intervening fifty years, he has published over twenty volumes of poetry and edited four anthologies, including The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse*. As well, he is a former Governor-General's award winner. In Directives of Autumn, Gustafson may not have another award winner, but he does have an excellent creative production. There is a wide range of subject matter, a variety of free verse styles, a kaleidoscope of imagery, and an abundance of allusion. Indeed, in order to completely appreciate many of these poems, one would need to have a firm grip on everything from Greek mythology to Chinese philosophy. Persephone, Lu Hong, Da Vinci, Whitman, and Goebbels all put in an appearance. However, these poems are not intellectual puzzles designed for academics to dissect. More than anything they are purveyors of images, enhanced by allusions, but not dependant upon them. In fact, there are so many vivid images of nature in these poems that one comes to think of Gustafson as a free verse Romantic, but that would be too restrictive a classification. Let us just say that he is a very good poet and that this is a very good collection of poetry that deserves a place in your library.

Clare A. Darby, Three Oaks S.H.S., Summerside, P.E.I.

*Reviewed vol. XIII/1 January 1985 p. 31.

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