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R.G. Everson

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990. 92pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-800-6 (paper) $11.95, ISBN 0-88750-799-9 (cloth) $23.95. CIP

Grades 9 and up/ Ages 14 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 19 Number 2
1991 March

R.G. Everson has written more than ten volumes of poetry in his long life. After a recent "drought," he experi­enced "a powerful release of creativity" at the age of eighty-six, and the result is this book. As the title indicates, many of the poems are about "me," the author. His pen reaches back over his life and highlights incidents from his infancy to the present.

Sometimes elderly people can be an embarrassment: they can become garrulous and wander from the point. Everson's poems are garrulous and a few may seem to lack a point. The "wordiness," though, is calculated - it is the kind of easy, relaxed talk that makes for good listening, and if there is no strong conclusion to some of his poems, the "point" is usually in the twinkle in the eye, the chuckle in the voice, the good humour.

The conversational style ("Lorna and I have been blessed with only one honeymoon apiece") lacks the rhythm of Robert Frost's conversational poems (e.g. "The Death of the Hired Man") and there are no memorable literary images - only a straightforward telling. Everson loves to mention the people he has known: painters in the Group of Seven, Gordon Sinclair, "Ned" Pratt, "Peggy" Atwood, Al Purdy, Louis Dudek, Ray Souster. He pokes fun at some of them and at himself.

He seems proud of his "real" poems. "Loaves; a Ditty for Children" was written when he was nineteen, and he remembers it fondly and recites it here, explaining the circumstances of its success, in a tacked-on "modern" poem. It would have added to the flavour of this collation to have more of the spicy succinctness of poems like "Loaves." "Departure" offers some of the same:

Venus has vanished - love
fading on the morning-after
I grieve for old times gone
moments ago

It is a joy to listen to the various voices of Mr. Everson.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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