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Ioannou, Susan.

Toronto, Word-wrights Canada, c1986. 60pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-920835-01-5. Distributed by Wordwrights Canada, P.O. Box 456, Station O, Toronto, Ont., M4A 2P1.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Barbara J. Graham

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

Mature readers will especially enjoy the third collection of Ioannou's sensitive and poignant lyrics. The poems will tug at the hearts of those with some living behind them and those younger readers who can open their imaginations to the possibilities of what it is like to be middle-aged, elderly, and perhaps entirely alone.

The first part of the collection, Familiar Faces, introduces the reader to a wide variety of faces. There is Shelagh, living alone in her cool elegance as she waits for a fuller life to come to her. There is Ms. B, who at thirty-eight, sees life "pasted to a page,/emotions pencilled blue." There are the rival poets who appear as "two itchy bears/rubbing egos/ like ragged rumps/against each other." We sympathize with the teacher, who while teaching a Chaucer class, envies the youthful vitality of Nick and Yvonne, and again when she agonizes over a student's sense of values and her responsibilities. We see and feel the "primordial steam" of a July Beach. We share the celebration of an aging barfly who "unpried his fingers,/ tried not to see/the troubled glance,/and slowly ran." Le Miserable assaults life with "a desperate certainty"; Mary Jane Elder quietly disappears, "aproned forever/into her daffodil mind"; a wife watches as her husband's mind deteriorates; Mrs. Minton confesses how she fights the Fear with small measured realities. There is some humour and affection in the poet's description of Ted's enjoyment of the Kittens and Mr. Sturdmont's fast exit for Gus, the cat. The image of six old ladies as "earnest chickens" sitting around an "orange plastic mushroom,/pecking tea from styro-foam" is exactly right, as is the description of the old Greek men chatting on at the plaza, "each within his private winter."

Private Griefs, elegaic in tone, requires some inner fortitude, as the poet confronts the reader with death, its inevitability, and the griefs it brings. Although her poems are highly personal, Ioannou will touch the heart of all, almost too much so for a reading of one sitting. She deals with the loneliness that comes from loss of loved ones, spouse, parents, grandparents, friends, in a way that confirms the commonality of our concerns and emotions.

Ioannou strikes piercingly close to the realities of existence as we grow older. The reader will smile in recognition and feel the deep hurts and longings so aptly expressed. And how has the poet accomplished this? Through the brilliance of the image. Poem after poem exhibits the spiritual and sensory power that accompanies the image, the metaphor, the precise word.

The collection is poorly bound; the themes read as a whole may depress those who wish happy poems; however, teachers will appreciate good examples of imagist poetry and the particular relevance of the ideas.

Barbara J. Graham, Board of Education for the City of London, London, Ont.
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