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Baker, Winona
Lantzville (B.C.), Oolichan Books, 1992. 55pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0-88982-114-3. CIP


Reviewed by Bob Lincoln

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

The ability to write poetry well can be learned quickly, or it may take a lifetime. There are so many poets writing today. To expose one's feelings, thoughts and attitudes on paper in public takes stamina and courage, as well as honesty. The outcome for the reader is different because the response is uncertain. Each reader has different expectations, and each brings different experiences to bear on the poems.

Oolichan Books, the publisher of Winona Baker's Beyond the Lighthouse, prepares the reader by promising a collection "of traditional, modern, feminist, haiku and humorous poems." Baker, who has published in CVII, Discovery and other small magazines, also has international recognition for her haiku. The clear diction and stylistic ease these poems exhibit is due to Baker's comfortable delivery; it is restrained, at times funny, and is never abrupt or startling. These poems are suggestive rather than definitive. The images are conventional, and unobtrusive. Most poems lack close detail or observations, and while they look inward at individual feelings and emotions, they do not look very far. A reader might want to know why a particular rain forest is worth saving, or why trees should not be cut. There are possibilities in the relationship between a ten-year-old girl and an owl in the poem "Hunting Dark," but they are not developed.

Perhaps the poems have the perspective of traditional haiku, where the poets look out on a literal world, seldom looking inward to discuss their feelings, and thus must rely on imagery and sharpness of detail. Baker, who has filled her poems with abstractions and general observations, needs to develop poems such as "Terra Incognita" or "Time for Roses" in order to draw out specific experiences, and touch the reader.

Bob Lincoln is a librarian at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba

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