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Ken Cathers
Saskatoon (Sask.), Thistledown Press, 1991. 64pp, paper, $11.00
ISBN 0-920633-89-7. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up

Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

If you have senior students looking for poetry by region for their independ­ent study assignments, Sanctuary can be labelled and shelved with British Columbia poetry. The author spent long enough in the east to obtain an M.A. from York University and then returned to British Columbia and went to work in a pulp mill, where he is working still.

There are thirty-one poems. Many are one page long, some longer - up to eight pages in length. Most cover the same territory gone over by other poets: personal experience within a particular landscape - the inner and outer weather of a life. We arc taken on a tour of the B.C. wilderness - sea, mist, heron, gull, seal, wind, sky, whale, sea. This is a tour of the primitive, natural world, and we tourists arc entranced. But all the time that we are gazing on the natural, neutral wonders, we are getting entangled in the wilderness that grows out of the poet's mind - an internal tangle that shares primitiveness with the external world.

The sea that holds whales and seals and feeds hawks is also the place his father dropped him as a child and said "now swim ya bugger" and I did, says the poet,

trusting him always
though I could barely
kick free
of this burlap sack
I found around me.

When the poet leaves the track of the familiar landscape and wanders into a cerebral wilderness, as he does in the title poem "Sanctuary," we all get lost a little. Where we stay rooted in known territory, as we do in the long poem "Coal," we can allow ourselves to experience the chill of the unknown and the illumination of knowing, even in the black pit with the mummified miners.

These are mainly accessible poems that should encourage students to read on and try writing themselves.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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