THE PROVING GROUND
Volume 19 Number 4
The page before the first poem is blank except for this: "A Book of Love Poems." How would the poet speak this line? Hesitantly? Ironically? Defiantly? The poet may not be sure, any more than we are, what love means in this world. The poems are not traditional love poems. All modern poetry seems to be more tentative and searching than the traditional poetry that used an accepted and understood ‘love.’
Love here is travelling at 30,000 feet and 600 miles an hour to the funeral of her sister-in-law, killed in a car crash, and living to tell about it in a poem that tries to hold the last second of the dead woman's life. Love is watching her sick son fight for his life, the poet-mother scared almost to death with "little love left." Love is the near loss of her own husband in the fear and strain of their son's illness. Love is other deaths and near-deaths observed and remembered. And love is forcing growth in a stony garden in the middle of the city.
In the second half of the book, "Faith in the Weather," the clouds of fear dissipate a little, and death is more distant and universal as the poet travels; England, Italy and even New York are diverting. Her son is older and healthier, "his joy my cure now." In the final poem, "The One World," love is a sort of hope, or if not yet hope, at least a balancing act between the old fear that gave us death, and something else - a holding of our breath, looking ahead, because "no one knows." This may be her final definition of love: waiting, suspended above the destruction on a frail lifeline of words.
Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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