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Gary Geddes

Montreal, Vehicule Press, 1990. 160pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 1-55065-007-6
Distributed by University of Toronto Press. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 18 Number 6
1990 November

This book offers something for everyone. Can't stand the brutal sights in Central America today (political prisoners, guts ripped open, thrown from helicopters)? Go back 500 years and enter an older, brutal world. Go farther back, then, 2,000 years or more to China and the creation of the pottery army, the mad dream of an emperor who sealed in the living artisans with their creations. Come back to Kent State in Ohio, 1970, and watch an innocent student get her trachea severed by a bullet. Well, then, over the border to Canada and safe in childhood memo­ries. Observe as the boy and his father slaughter a pig and the "thick well of blood gushes from the stuck throat" and the boy faints. So, into the present — Ontario and the good life — Rheal living in the dump, killing animals, cursing God, and telling of the nuns who

beat you mercilessly as a child,
placed their fine black boots on your
and applied repeatedly to your ass
the yardstick with its trinity of feet.

Midway through the collection is a poem, "The Use of Poetry," in which Geddes laments that poems are,

seldom found in bookstores
or on the lips of small children.

Ironic in view of his subjects. This poem ends with a plea, a fine bit of writing, which sings of the poet at work:

But let there be
always someone in a small room
above the street and its tragedies...

And even in this vision, war and destruction intrude, as a soldier passing in the rubble is the only one to see the poet's work, "these words of fire and wind."

This line from his poem on Philip Larkin will be, perhaps, Geddes' own epitaph: "He was a man whose words stopped short of ecstasy." Still, this collection is a sincere, carefully crafted and powerful record of one aspect of life — something to meditate on for those who find the TV news and documenta­ries too ephemeral.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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