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McCracken, Kathleen
Waterloo (Ont.), Penumbra Press, 1991. 71pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-921254-27-X. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

Kathleen McCracken was born in Ontario, lives in Dublin, has published three previous collections of poetry, and has evidently traveled much. The publisher indicates that she is a poet out of place, but the theme of inner and outer experience seems more fundamental: "I can believe in nothing/but what is not there..." runs a line in her poem "Asphodel and Sulphur."

It is the mark, or perhaps curse, of the sensitive artist to be obliged to live within the mind and its projections. But this is a love poem: in a paradoxical moment when the excited body relaxes from the mind's control, physicality is enabled to come into its own. The speaker's hand goes out and "unflinchingly" clasps the others. The poem is over in a flaring of colour (the asphodel and sulphur).

McCracken presents poems from around the world: they feature statues, dogs, birds, colours all things which belong to the physical world and which the poet can organize, according to feelings and ideas, into mental constructs. But when one confronts the multi-faceted shining surfaces of downtown office structures, however designed, what set of feelings can bring such ambiguous, reflecting forms into coherence and meaning? The poet asks this question in the title poem and, puzzled, is obliged to reply, "There is no saying away/the strangeness of things outside ourselves ...."

Alan Thomas teaches literature at Scarborough College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario.

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