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Raymond Souster

Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1991. 150pp, paper, ISBN 0-88750-845-6 (cloth) $25.95, ISBN 0-88750-846-4 (paper) $12.95. CIP

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

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

From the back cover of this book: "Raymond Souster is 70 now and he may no longer always go the distance." The reference is to a baseball pitcher who may not be able to complete a game. The title, with its "jock" connec­tion, seems to imply a slowing down of the game, a boring lack of action. The macho sports imagery is present in the poems but is a fading memory. The poems are mainly memories of Souster's boyhood and World War II, or musings on sights from his window. An occa­sional "goddam" or sexual reference seems calculated to arouse us from the stupor induced by these drowsy poems, perhaps also ejaculated to show that the poet is not ready to quit.

What makes the poems "drowsy" is not the subject matter so much as the drawling monotone of the delivery, which makes everything seem the same in his telling. The attempts at imagery leave us bemused. In "Winter Sur­prise," the days of winter are pitches in a baseball game!? Sitting on the bleachers in the second stanza we watch snowflakes, which become some type of aircraft,

each one touching down
on this glide-path of Mother Earth
in a perfect three-pointer

Time to call the game.

The best pieces are the memories with titles such as "My Father on Horseback" and "Dream of Kicking a Football Again."

I say "pieces" because as with much poetry today, these could have been written in prose form and no one would have known that they were poetry. No literary or poetic devices intrude. They are honest retellings, their strength in the nostalgia. If old memories, often sad, do not bore you, the story-seller with his unembellished style will keep you stuck in your chair for quite a while.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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