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Marilyn Bowering.

Toronto, General Publishing, c1984.
127pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7736-1153-3.

Grades 12 and up.

Reviewed by Pamela Black.

Volume 12 Number 6
1984 November

Marilyn Bowering's most recent collection of poetry presents much that is new intermingled with discreet selections from her previously published work. The book is divided into four sections that, while not specifically thematically related, are united nonetheless through the evolution of Bowering's personal mythology, which is apparent throughout. There is a predominant pre'occupation with birth and death that is revealed to us in brief and terrible glimpses as Bowering forces us to confront the brutality and indifference of the natural world superimposed over the relationships and forces that dominate our own hearts and homes. Love, with the exception of "Too Happy," is drawn not as a softener of other hardships but as a tragic vulnerability that only compounds hardship.

The most overtly personal sections in the book are "Giving Back Diamonds" and "The Sunday Before Winter." These portions are the most accessible to the reader because their allusions are more familiar. "Three Swans and an Owl" touches on "The impossible task of life," and "Gains and Losses" and "True Love" bring these feelings of impossibility and despair to bear on the more particular instances of personal loss and emptiness in familial and love relationships. "Giving Back Diamonds," conspicuous in its simplicity, appropriately and succinctly sums up the essence of Bowering's love poetry on its most basic level.

The title section deals more intensely with family dynamics, the passage of time, and the shifting of feelings. Some lighter notes arise in pieces such as "Some Heedless Gazelle" that counter-balance the personal desolation that is conveyed in "The Sunday Before Winter."

This book is not a must for school libraries but would be an asset to schools that provide advanced studies in Canadian literature. Marilyn Bowering's use of classical imagery is enlivened by her familiarity with modern Greece and consequently provides a refreshing opportunity for students to explore standard allusions put to new uses. Furthermore, Bowering's knack of using the familiar and particular to explore what is unknown and metaphysical, presents a challenge to any reader of poetry.

Pamela Black, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC.
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