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Edited by Daniel S. Lenoski.
Winnipeg, MB: Turnstone Press, 1989.
343pp., paper, $16.95.
ISBN 0-48801-143-1. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Canadian poetry (English)-Prairie Provinces.
Canadian poetry (English)-20th century.

Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 18 Number 5
1990 September

In the last century, poets Keats, Byron, Browning, etc.) wrote long, long poems, as long as novels, some of them. But novels won out and became the dominant literary form in this century and poets diminished in stature, withdrawing into slim volumes, short poems. The long poem surfaces occasionally like a prehistoric monster from thedepths. But is it as tantalizing as Ogopogo? Not to high school students! Given the same material in three forms l - long poem, novel, short story - students will choose to read the books in this order: novel, short story. (Notice that the long poem is left on the shelf.) Why the novel is preferred is a mystery.

There are eleven long poems in this volume, and the poets are not unknown: Lorna Crozier, Anne Szumigalski, Anne Marriott, Robert Kroetsch, Andrew Suknaski and Aritha van Herk, among others. Some of these writers are successful novelists as well. Many of the poems in this book, at fifty or more pages, are too long and involved for a short story but could have been made into short novels.

"The Shunning" by Patrick Friesen, about Mennonite life and tragic death on the prairies, could be a great novel. And poets don't have to be afraid that the novel form will cramp their style.

The novel seems to absorb all - poetic passages, experimental formats, reluctant readers. There is something about realizing you are reading a long poem that stops you.

Other poets will read these; senior students told to read a long poem will read these. Even students looking for information on prairie life and history might read these, because each poem is followed by pages of notes on the text (adds to the feeling that we are reading historical curiositites). But will these poems be read just for the experience, as you would read a novel? I don't think so!

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, ON.
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