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Don Kerr.

Moose Jaw, Coteau Books, c1983.
Distributed by Thunder Creek Publishing Co-operative.
65pp, paper, $14.00 (cloth), $6.00 (paper).
ISBN 0-919926-21-5 (cloth), 0-919926-22-3 (paper).

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Vivienne Denton.

Volume 12 Number 3
1984 May

The Thunder Creek Co-op, whose imprint Coteau Books is, has a regional mandate to publish prairie writing. This is the second volume of Kerr's poems published under the Co-op's imprint; the first, A New Improved Sky (1981), a nostalgic celebration of the poet's hometown, Saskatoon, won him a Heritage Canada Award. This new book is billed as "Going Places, poems which take you on a vacation with Don Kerr." The writer takes his notebook on vacation and comes up with poetry that is entertaining and urbane.

What happens when a university professor from the Prairies gets in his car with wife and kids and poetry notebook? He records the family pleasures of the middle-class professional with a troubled sense of his place in history. Journeying to other places makes the poet conscious of the fragility of the guilty pleasures of affluent life away from the centre. The title is ironic; although the poet may be "going places," he carries his Saskatchewan perspective on life along with him. The subject of the poetry is not the places visited but the prairie dweller on safari. Kerr gracefully acknowledges a provincial cast of mind. A sense of the middle-class prairie blinkers through which the poet views the world is wittily conveyed, although his descriptions of the impact of the sweep of the prairie landscape on its inhabitants and their reaction to foreign scenery is often a little self-conscious and old hat.

The vacations of the poet, a product of the sixties radicalism now settled into comfortable family life, are flawed by guilt. The volume's central section is called "The Balancing of Pleasure." The poet reads Marxism in the sunshine and makes a good living from it; ecological concern is now the tokenism of the local health foods store, and urban development, McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken all survive despite his offended sensibilities.

The humour of these poems is distinctly Canadian. Self satire and irony point to the culture's foibles but are not dangerously self-critical. Cartoon illustrations depicting the well-padded poet and his pen "going places" together are in key with the tone of witty self-deprecation.

Vivienne Denton, Toronto, ON.
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