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Brian Richardson.

Winnipeg, Prairie Publishing, c1983.
74pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-91957644-3.

Grades 9 and up.

Reviewed by Sister Anne Leonard.

Volume 12 Number 6
1984 November

The setting for this volume of poems, Reflections From a Basement Window, is Winnipeg, the Winnipeg as experienced by Seamas Campbell in 1972. The introduction explains how "Seamas Campbell wandered into Winnipeg in the fall of 1972 after setting out from Halifax with the intention of travelling across Canada. He suported (sic) himself by taking a variety of jobs but he never lost sight of his aim to become a professional writer." Brian Richardson, like Seamas Campbell, moved from Halifax to Winnipeg. He was born in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, moved to New York, then to Montreal where he started his career as a professional writer and then to Halifax and Winnipeg. Using journal entries that Seamas Campbell had jotted down while gazing out of the window of his basement suite on River Avenue, Winnipeg, Brian Richardson has produced this collection of poems. Excerpts from Reflections From a Basement Window were done for Manitoba Anthology on CBC radio in December, 1980.

The poems fall neatly into the four seasons beginning with fall and Seamas Campbell's arrival at the new apartment. Details of housekeeping, neighbours, and the seasons are sketched in a vigorous style that makes for easy reading. Richardson is sensitive to the effect of the climate on the day-to-day events in Campbell's life. Spring is referred to as "winter's carryover" and in "Riverbank Saturday" Richardson stresses the summer heat to show that life has its extremes:

      Extreme! Extreme! Extreme!
      In extreme cold I had no work
      but now here's heat and I'm employed
      at a time I'd rather shirk.

Some poems are like dramatic monologues, particularly those about his relationship with a neighbour, a woman called Lenni, from whom he has to borrow some sugar when he first arrives. His poems appear to have almost a careless quality because Richardson keeps close to the language and rhythm of ordinary speech. On closer examination, however, his poems exhibit a real concern for the craft. In his poem "Cycling in St. Boniface," for Example, there is an energetic ground rhythm resembling the nursery rhymes that work best when read aloud:

      So up this hill I ride my bike;
      No coasting now, but strain,
      And as it levels off I strike
      a route to the River Seine.

In all of Richardson's poems, there is a sense of fun, while underneath the rollicking rhythm a deeper note is frequently heard, a note that seems to question what city life is all about.

Sister Anne Leonard, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Halifax, NS.
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