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P.K. Page

Don Mills (Ont.), Oxford University Press, 1991. 216pp, paper, $17.95
ISBN 0-19-540840-3. CIP

Grades 10 and up/Ages 15 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 19 Number 4
1991 September

This is a new edition of an award-winning volume published in 1985. P.K. Page has been publishing her stories and poems since the 1940s and she won the Governor General's award for poetry in 1954. She began to draw and paint in the 1960s and reproduc­tions of a number of her beautifully detailed, fantastic drawings arc inter­spersed among the poems in this book.

The poems are grouped in three sections - 1944-1954, 1955-1967, 1968-1985 - and are followed by two essays. One of these essays wrestles with the two competing modes of artistic expression in her life - drawing and writing. They appear to compete, for when she started drawing, she stopped writing for a period of time. She yearns to marry the two - to create "an art that would satisfy all the senses." As for writing, the struggle, the search for the right pieces is all that matters; the finished poem is "no more important than the image in a completed jig saw puzzle." And both writing and painting are "alternate roads to silence." So, we are left with 200 pages of unimportant images that we must struggle through to arrive at that satisfying silence.

The forty years of her search and struggle are displayed here. Through it all we are nagged by that little question, "Why?" Part way through, a poem, "Father," is revealing:

... I still crave thy praise
striving for thy approval
to appear
beautiful in thine eyes
or talented

The compulsion to create, does it all spring from this? Her plea to her father (if this is her father) cast in antique language is that they set each other free after a life or lives together. In the absence of other evidence, for example, that she simply enjoys doing this thing, we are forced to centre on this fatherly force hovering over her pen. We are forced to assume the burden with her. But there are the points of exaltation that flame up towards the silence that she craves:

Light of the swan-white moon.
The blazing light of trees.
And the rarely glimpsed bright face
behind the apparency of things.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.
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1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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