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Harris, Michael.

Montreal, VLB Editeur, c1984. 99pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-2-89005-201-X. Distributed by VLB Editeur, 918 est, rue Sherbrooke, Montreal, Que., H2L 1L2

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Donalee Moulton-Barrett

Volume 13 Number 5
1985 September

If you read the press release that accompanies Michael Harris's poetry collection, Miss Emily et la Mort, you would conclude that this was a revolutionary, groundbreaking work by an innovative writer and his equally innovative publisher.

This publication is a breakthrough: for the very first time, a francophone publisher presents a book by an English Quebec poet. The rich and varied tradition of English Quebec poetry is virtually unknown by French readers, even in literary circles. This book constitutes a breach in the wall of polite silence between writers of two communities.

Sounds great. Then you read the book. Harris's poetry is competent, but frankly, rarely anything more. At times, especially in the longer poems, the metaphor is strained and the use of repetition ineffective, as in these lines from "The Gamekeeper":

whose starving, still hopeful, pure
panic of deer
tiptoe the brittle-twigged landscape
to silence
to a deadhalt
at the appletree, and the appletree's
victory stays
stiff necked, full of thrash . . .

And so on and so on.

Even the alternating French/English pages do not work well. When poems are continued the reader has to flip a page (every time) which breaks up the flow of the work. However, two books, one in French another in English would not be feasible as Miss Emily et la Mort has less than thirty-five poems.

Donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, N.S.
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