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Edited by Rosemary Sullivan.
Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press, 1989..
301pp., paper, $19.95.
ISBN 0-19-540688-5. CIP.

Subject Heading:
Canadian poetry (English)-Women authors.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Donalee Moulton-Barrett.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

Putting together a comprehensive collection of poetry is, to understate the task, extremely difficult. Rosemary Sullivan faces this problem in Poetry by Canadian Women and yet manages to keep the volume comprehensive. Particularly notable among this large and diverse collection are the early women writers whose work she has managed to locate. Many of these poets' names will not be familiar to readers - Margaret Blennerhasset (1778? - 1842), Pamela Vinning Yule (1825 - 1897), Isabella Valancy Crawford (1850 - 1887) - yet their themes will be:

Since Horace sung, and long before
Has woman felt man's tyrant power.
'False' and 'fickle' are slight charges
When disappointed man enlarges,
On weak woman's many failings.

(From "Sir Walter Raleigh's Advice to His Son on the Subject of Matrimony" by Margaret Blennerhasset.)

Women's relationships, women's role and women's position in society (or lack thereof) are themes regularly repeated throughout this collection.

Once the reader enters the twentieth century the names of the poets - P.K. Page, Miriam Waddington, Dorothy Livesay, Margaret Atwood - will be as familiar as the themes. This is, of course, to be expected. Sullivan could not have edited a collection of Canadian women poets and not included these women: their work is sharp and focused, their reputations established. Perhaps, though, Sullivan could have included less of their work in an effort to include more poets overall. Likewise, there seems to be no attempt to include a regional cross-section of women poets. Québec and the Atlantic are sorely under-represented. But as readers weave their way through the pages of Poetry by Canadian Women, thoughts of what could have been will be overshadowed by what is - a powerful collection of poetry.

Donalee Moulton-Barrett, Halifax, NS.
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