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James Reaney

Goderich (Ont.), Moonstone Press, 1990. 104pp, paper, $12.95
ISBN 0-920259-32-4. CIP

Reviewed by L. Maingon.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

As the title indicates, James Reaney's latest book is a collection of poems intended for performance and not for private reading. Readers already familiar with Reaney's better known work as a playwright and his co­operative works with John Beckwith will have no problems in coming to terms with Reaney's concept of the "performance poem."

The concept of the "performance poem" is best understood in terms of Reaney's passionate and personal celebration of rural southern Ontario life. As the penultimate text, "Afterword" indicates, a performance poem is not necessarily meant to be staged formally; it may be performed domestically, always within a circle of friends. The performance then becomes almost incantatory and through it, performers and audience recapture shards of an eternal southern Ontario, and even, at times, as in the lovely "Sleeping Giant," of a quintessential Canada.

Reaney's preoccupation with the cyclicity of time is well reflected in the division of these poems by months associated first with the muses and then with types of poems and finally with autumnal feasts and remembrances. Given this layout and overall intention, it is not surprising to find that each section is prefaced and almost directed by the author.

The collection, therefore, constitutes a very representative anthology of some of Reaney's best and most original work. The ungainly presentation of the text is offset by the usefulness of a large format for the performatory character of these poems.

L. Maingon, University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.
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