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David Helwig.

Ottawa, Oberon Press, c1983.
unpaged, paper, $19.95.
ISBN 0-88750-506-6.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by Joan VanSickle.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

The collection is a gift-size book containing twenty-odd short poems, accompanied by etchings from the Victorian period. The poems, triggered by the old pictures, are based on modern themes.

This means of presenting and composing poetry aims to impose today's perspective on common items from yesterday. The pictures join in Helwig's poetic imagination, bolstered by one hundred years of social progress, to form an impression more symbolic than their separated values could convey. Often the tone of the poetry is decidedly un-Victorian, a release from the polite conventions suggested in many of the etchings. Notions of love, patriotism, and social ritual receive a new and different emphasis.

In reinterpreting the symbolism of these common items, a Union Jack, boots, a Turk's Head, Helwig composes a progress report on humanity's growth in the last couple of ages.

Some poems succeed on their own; some only within the context of the collection, and some are written brutishly in contrast with a fine subtlety of thought found in others.

As a teaching tool for senior students, there is much to be developed and adapted as an incentive for poetry modeling.

Joan VanSickle Heaton, Sydenham H. S., Sydenham, ON.
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