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Lane, Patrick.

Saskatoon, Thistledown Press, c1984. unpaged, paper, ISBN 0-920066-94-1 (cloth) $20.00, 0-920066-95-X (paper) $8.55. CIP

Reviewed by Tony Cosier

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

In A Linen Crow, a Caftan Magpie, Patrick Lane indulges in aesthetic craft-play. Each of these forty poems is made up of four unrhymed couplets, a form influenced, the author tells us, by the haiku and the ghazal; by Isaiah, Schiller, Buson, and Basho; and by four contemporaries who gave editorial advice. The poems mix symbolic imagery, epigrams, puns, and generalized abstractions. Connections in thought between stanza and stanza, line and line, and sometimes even within the limits of a single line, are intended to be intuitive jumps. In one stanza, Lane depicts the process with punning reference to a fishing/poetic line:

As the line moves.
The leap! Thrashing there.

The style marks an interesting departure from the one Lane has established with his sixteen books over thirty years. Lane's work is generally mainstream; clear, linear, graphic narrative, alternately tempered with humour and violence. A Linen Crow, a Caftan Magpie is unique, discordant, pedantic, and too obscure to seem either good-humoured or violent.

Thistledown Press has bound the poems substantially on quality stock in an open format, (including forty-eight blank pages), with the poems centred within wide margins and an appropriately deft illustration by Louise Walters. Thistledown is not alone in sponsoring Lane's experiment. The CBC has presented some of the poems in the form of songs set to music by Tom Schudel and sung by Lori Erhardt. Canadian Literature has published some of them; so has the South-East Asian Review. Lane acknowledges some institutional backing from the University of Alberta and the Library of Saskatoon.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H.S., Nepean, Ont.
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