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Glen Sorestad

Madeira Park (B.C.), Nightwood Editions, 1990. 77pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 1-55017-020-1
Distributed by Harbour Publishing, P.O. Box 219, Madeira Park, B.C. VON2HO. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

It is rare for a modern poet to publish poems on a theme. These travel poems take us by plane, train, automo­bile, canoe and foot to Holland, Luxem­bourg, Germany, France, Italy, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and the southwestern United States. Good travel pictures, according to someone I know, must always have people in them, preferably people we know. The scenes are incidental, backdrops for the real centre of interest. Sorestad believes that, too, and he tries to make us familiar with his people. If there are no others around, he puts himself in the picture.

There is no one in these poems that we would not meet if we walked our own streets. We each inhabit the same exotic locales. The poet's travelling shrinks the globe into an interior circling. A point of light from a plane in the night sets Sorestad to revolving:

Perhaps another poet is up there,
coming or going
from another reading, pen in hand,
filling time
roughing out lines about night

Sorestad attempts to picture an "old boy" asleep in a mall in Germany, with the wistful beginning, "If I were a painter...." If not a painter, then he is a quick-sketch artist. We do not have to study these sketches hard. They lack the complexity and hard-line detail of finished pictures. It is up to us to make the complete picture, out of ourselves, our memories, experiences. Perhaps this is all that we can expect of most poetry.

The poet sketches himself into the corner, or right into the centre of most of his pictures. In only a few cases does he leave himself out and try to make a sharp, finished picture. In "Amsterdam Evening" and "Four Airports in Late November" Sorestad uses the same format — four separate scenes in three lines each. In one of these,

An aging prostitute, stoned or
drunk, sits
on the sidewalk beside a potted
her day in utter disarray.

These are small canvases, miniatures, and are a welcome contrast to the loose, broad strokes of most of his sketching.

The trip is worthwhile, if only because Sorestad has taken the time to remind us of what we have known and experienced ourselves.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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