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Nowlan, Alden.

Toronto, Irwin, c1985. 284pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-7725-1525-5. CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by Vivienne Denton

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

When Alden Nowlan died in 1983 at the age of fifty, he had produced more than a dozen volumes of poetry, as well as several volumes of fiction, drama, and other works. This posthumous selection of his poetry, edited by Robert Gibbs, attempts to be as inclusive as possible, representing "the man as poet and the poet as man as generously as space would allow," The editor has added twenty-three new poems to the canon published in selections during the poet's lifetime. Most of these had appeared recently in magazines, but a few were taken from among the poet's papers.

The poems have been skillfully chosen and arranged in the order the poet himself used in his collections as they appeared in his lifetime. The result is a poetic autobiography, a perspective on the development of the poet throughout his career, and because his poetry tends to be so intimate, a glimpse of Nowlan the man. As poet, Nowlan sets up an intimacy with his readers. I Might Not Tell Everybody This* is the tongue-in-cheek title he chose for one of his later collections, and Gibbs has fittingly chosen as the title poem for this collection "An Exchange of Gifts," which describes the kind of close exchange with his readers Nowlan sought to achieve.

As I read through this collection I was delighted to rediscover how vigorous and witty Nowlan's work is. He has a wonderful ability to take ordinary incidents and local materials and shine them up for posterity, and his keen eye and ear for human idiosyncrasies and his warm wit are endearing. A poet of the Maritimes, his regional voice is a vital part of his poetry.

For any library wishing to maintain a good Canadian poetry section this collection is a must. A well chosen, representative collection of the work of a major Canadian poet.

Vivienne Denton, Toronto, Ont.

*Reviewed vol. X/4 November 1982 p252.

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