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Patrick Lane.

Toronto, Oxford University Press, c1982.
88pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-19-540409-2.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Steven Wells.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

Patrick Lane won a Governor-General's award in 1978 for Poems News & Selected. Now, in this new collection, he will disappoint many readers who expect him to repeat his previous performance.

In "Prairie Poems," the first section of Old Mother, Lane does employ clear, often graphic, imagery to present his vision of rural life. Death and violence pervade these dark poems. A farm woman routinely decapitates chickens "as a spray of blood lifts like a tongue/across the block." A girl discovers the horror of "raw slime and choking/half-formed bodies" in abandoned eggs.

In the second section, "The Weight," Lane embarks on a lengthy journey of self-discovery. As he traces ancestry and history in three abstruse poems, structure collapses beneath the weight of tedious introspection.

Lane was a member of the first Canadian Writers' Tour of China in 1981, and thirteen "China Poems" conclude this book. These concise, sensitive poems portray the human face of that country. A young girl imitates tourists in her struggle to master English; an old man, without question, tends the Great Wall like his father before him.

Unsuccessful poems weaken this collection, and some sexual references restrict its institutional use to senior grades. Lane's admirers, however, will enjoy several good poems, especially the China sequence, in Old Mother.

Steven Wells, Elliot Lake S. S., Elliot Lake, ON.
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