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Stephen Scriver

Regina, Coteau Books, 1991. 108pp, paper, $9.95
ISBN 1-55050-016-3. CIP

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

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

Stephen Scriver was born in 1947, the same year as my wife. Both he and my wife had fathers who served as RCAF aircraftsmen in England in World War II. These were the men who serviced the Lancaster bombers and the Spitfires and sent them off across the channel against Germany. They were not involved directly in the fighting but they have their own interesting stories to tell.

The author collected this information from listening to his father and his war buddies over the years reminiscing about their experiences. Stephen Scriver has published poems in a number of collections, and perhaps that is why he felt compelled to cast these stories in the format recognized at first glance as poetry. There is really nothing of poetry to them. They could just as reasonably have been written down as prose, although they would have filled only half as many pages. I want to give the book to my father-in-law to read, but he may not be interested simply because of the "poetry"!

This raises some questions with regard to student readers. Would students also be more likely to read this material if it were in prose form? Since students are required to read poetry from time to time, will this "poetry" be more acceptable to some of them simply because of the down-to-earth content and language? Perhaps the author's reason for the poetry format - short-lines, stanzas, spaces - is that he hopes that readers will be induced to slow down, pause and reflect on the experi­ences.

Let's hope that this does happen, because there is no evidence in the words of the old vets that they have any more insight that they had as young recruits just off the prairie farms. The story-teller, taking about packing incendiary bombs, "like they used to roast Dresden and Hamburg," into planes, rambles on:

but me
I never thought too much
about where they were goin
and I didn't wanta know

The minds displayed remind me of the minds within the neat, modest homes I pass every day, some still displaying their yellow ribbons [Dempsey wrote this review last April]. Very self-absorbed, self-protective, fearful of not doing what is expected. There will always be enough people to support whatever current war we are told is just. Sure, in the stories the guys get a little pissed off at the officers - the "pongos" - and they get scared shitless when they see an airman back from a mission all shot to pieces, but all in all, they had a good time. And, as one says at the story's end,

I don't think too much
about it all

it happened
I went
I got back pretty well
in one piece

that's all

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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