________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 13 . . . . February 22, 2008


Naming the Baby: The Best of The Claremont Review.

Janice McCachen, Bill Stenson, Susan Stenson & Terence Young, selectors.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
247 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 978-1055143-772-9.

Subject Heading:
High school students' writings.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.

Review by Darleen Golke.

**** /4



The day before I was born
my mother danced
at a
Joni Mitchell concert,
told everyone she met
I was a girl
because I kicked
to the tune of
"Blue Motel Room."
For 9 months
she put earphones
to her stomach,
piped in the songs of
Armatrading and
argued with my father to name me "Joan"
but chose
"Leah" instead.
Years later I discovered
in the baby book
at the grocery store
my name
and yes sometimes
it is all too much
this Hejira,
and Mingus,
and I am once again a
tired fetus
humming with the
feminist voices
that argue
through me.

The Victoria, BC, March 1992 launch of The Claremont Review introduced "Canada's first international literary journal specifically designed for aspiring adolescent writers." Published twice a year in the spring and the fall, the journal welcomes "submissions from 13-19 year olds from anywhere in the English speaking world" and has "published writers from every province in Canada, nine U.S. states, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa." This collection, selected by writers/teachers/fans/volunteers Janice McCachen, Bill Stenson, Susan Stenson, and Terence Young, features representative pieces of work from each of Numbers 1 through 30 of the journal. The editors "tracked down the authors featured in this edition" and found that "every single one of them has gone on to lead an extraordinary life." They explain the selection process attempted to balance genres, present "a fair representation from the entire history of the magazine," and conform to the "space available in the anthology."

     Examples of poetry outnumber those of prose; the works reflect universal themes that engage adolescents ranging from their self-absorption to their sometimes-confrontational relationships with adults. As the young writers search for meaning in their often difficult and confused lives, they allow their words to reflect their introspection and passionate observations. Love, hate, self-image, dysfunctional relationships and families, suicide, illness, death, loneliness, sex and sexual predators, marriage breakdown, alcohol and drug abuse, desertion, displacement, eating disorders, hypochondria, and parent-child relations number among the issues that arise.

     Emotionally charged and engaging, the works represent the range of experiences as seen through the eyes of adolescents. Whether arguing about the existence of God ("Friday Nights in Quidi Vidi"), playing pool ("Kiss Shot"), struggling with self-image ("Winter Solace"), reflecting on the loss of a loved one ("Obituary"), understanding a mother's "fits of hysteria" and inability to cope with change ("Haunted House"), watching a brother's "quagmire of uncertainty" as he tries to process the horror of his sister among Picton's victims ("My Brother and Robert Picton"), remembering family trips ("Family Photograph"), or musing about life with Shakespeare ("Anne Hathaway"), the sometimes raw and brutal, sometimes calm and thoughtful emotions resonate and ring true.

     The collection should act to alert young writers that a journal for publishing their writing exists and welcomes submissions. School and public libraries need copies of Naming the Baby and teachers would find the collection useful in promoting creative writing and fostering imaginative poetry and prose. Selections from the collection used in the classroom can serve as useful examples of various styles and techniques as well as agents to stimulate discussion and promote reflection.


Darleen Golke writes from Abbotsford, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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