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Don Gutteridge

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1990. 79pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-811-1 (paper) $11.95, ISBN 0-88750-810-3 (cloth) $23.95. CIP

Reviewed by L. Maignon.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

Don Gutteridge is a southern Ontario poet best known for his poetic histories of Maquinna; Tecumseh, the true Canadian North of the soul; and Lambton county, all of which were previously published by Oberon (Coppermine, 1973; Borderlands, 1975; Tecumseh, 1976). With Love in the Wintertime he returns to the theme of his early poetry - personal biography - as in his earliest work The Village within: Poems towards a Biography (1970). This bibliographic overview, which omits two recent novels and half a dozen other collections of poetry, is necessary for the prospective reader to grasp the impor­tance that the problem of the continuity of meaning has for Gutteridge.

In Love in the Wintertime Gutteridge brings back the twin themes of the internationalization of reality and the fight against time's annihilation of individual meaning. The closing verses of this poetic cycle, "the alphabets of poetry/ and despair," sum up Gutteridge's aesthetics. The title itself is an alliterative metaphor for "life / love" in the "Wintertime / Wilderness" of solitude and meaninglessness.

Love in the Wintertime is a triptych of incidental pieces. The first part, "Love and Other Griefs," presents the parental love that kept the poet from knowing the void of meaninglessness, and the erotic mythology that sustained it. The second part, "Family Resemblances: An Album," recollects the interaction of people within Gutteridge's biography. Family members, births, deaths, such as that of the well-known London painter, Jack Chambers, and voyages with professional colleagues such as Allan Gedalof into the heartland of the Canadian Shield: all recall the essential bond before the void of the land and need to create a poetical mythology against it.

This journey into the quintessential self is rounded in the last part, "The Loretta Lynn Suite," which counter­points the inner reality of Loretta Lynn and the movie version of her life, Coal Miner's Daughter, with Gutteridge's own poetic biography. This third part closes the cyclical biography with explicit parallels between the parental relations of Loretta Lynn and Gutteridge, and the despair of meaning and poetry.

A reader of Gutteridge's previous work will find in this last volume a fresh power of expression of the simple, which is, in this reader's view, possibly the best of this poet's output. Where one may not agree with Gutteridge is in the stark vision of the land and the need to impose meaning on it, which is the source of his despair. The relation he presupposes reveals the anguish and basic alienation of Western civilization in North America, and the failure to assimilate the aboriginal reality of the land. Oberon's fine printing free of typographical errors on good paper makes this volume of poetry well worth acquiring.

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