CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Wreggitt, Andrew.

Saskatoon, Thistledown Press, c1984. 79pp, paper, ISBN 0-920066-92-5 (cloth) $20.00, 0-920066-93-3 (paper) $8.95. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Tony Cosier

Volume 13 Number 6
1985 November

These are stirring lyrics by a sensitive and melancholy man. Though he was born in Sudbury, Ontario in 1955, Andrew Wreggitt has lived most of his life in British Columbia. Much of the raw power of these poems stems from his appreciation of the rural western environment. Wreggitt has an eye for natural effects and his figures move against crisply etched backdrops of river and cliff. He has a unique way of catching movement against the landscape. The long poem on "Daniel Harmon: A Geography" has an interesting example:

Descending to the Peace River
the valley swings
away from the eye
as if on a hinge
He turns
the horizon turns on his shoulder

In "Alchemy," Wreggitt brings the same sort of unique vision to his contemplation of a bee struggling against window glass. He starts with the blunt fact, "I watch a wasp hammer/at the closed window," but with his third line, "The glass was not his invention," he sets the mind off on a sweep of shifting perspectives, as though the bee, glassmaker, and the poet himself were "battered against the rhythm of days/muddled with inventions." In "The Business of Angels," Wreggitt observes an obese girl struggling to stand up on a beach with the same mix of concrete focus and mental dexterity.

"Bridge to Greenville, Nass Valley" uses a symbolic government man planning a bridge over a canyon to criticize the limited vision of governments. In two other poems, he uses harrowing anecdotes of workers' tragedies to heighten the foulness of mine and factory. In his portrait of Eleanor in the Supervalu, he lets the frustrated mother with her baffled children at her side and her unemployed, disenchanted husband at home, weep for her trapped self, her family, the province, "all of us."

"Benedition" opens with the poet as a social observer watching an old man trying to coax a cup of coffee from a waitress. Trying to kindle her compassion, the old man reminds the waitress it is Good Friday, and tells her the story of a boy on a bicycle hit by a car. He earns his cup of coffee with his story and leaves the poet deep in thought, staring at his own reflection in the pie rack, meditating on Good Friday, thinking about the boy on the bike. The personal twist is fitting. Several of the most touching poems in the book deal with the poet's ability to empathize. The poet dedicates "Brothers" to both the man who tried to kill himself and the brother who tried to stop him. The sight of a slaughtered porpoise enables the poet and his sullen lover to find words and gestures for their own sorrow. The poet in a city street remembering his father riding through wild country in search of a horse "calls out in darkness and waits to be found." In "Prayer: Belbutte," he compares himself to a stone "hurled gladly/in the blood of my father,/my children."

"The Green Diamond" is a touching portrait of a man who hears his son call to him across a baseball field, a man who in turn wishes to twist from throwing strikes at his own backstop to shout to his own father across the missing years, "Hey, dad, look at me." "Fishing" brings the same sense of fullness to a mother and son relationship, capturing the two sharing a fishing rod. These two poems are set appropriately side by side at the end of the book, with "Fishing" closing the volume to balance in turn the title piece which opens the book. For the "Man at Stellaco River" fishes by a river under huge cliffs, as "somewhere a woman waits for the man to return." This is a fine set of poems, well suited to public and academic libraries.

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


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works