by Allan Casey
After twenty-two books of poetry, numerous awards, and accolades from his fellow poets, Patrick Lane has nothing to prove to anyone, and the writing in Too Spare, Too Fierce (Harbour, 69 pages, $10.95) bears the mark of that hard-won confidence. He is as skilful and attentive writing about rape in an asylum as about the sun breaking through cloud. Nor does he feel the sophomoric need to juxtapose such extremes just to rattle us-and here is a poet who traverses extremes.
While many of the pieces here are arranged around central, interrelated themes-innocence, sex, growth, death-it is the poet's cold, reportorial eye that really binds them as one. Killing chickens, meditating upon the past down a dusty street in Mexico, or into the desert at night-the reader will follow the speaker of these poems anywhere, confident that Lane will find poetry in the most improbable corner. Unlike many writers in the Late Video Age, he does not rely on inherently "poetic" scenarios or weird tableaux to deliver us truth, but rather on a keen eye and emotional maturity. He could wring poetry out of an old shirt.
This writing is indeed spare and fierce, and anyone who has wondered recently if Canadian poetry is alive and well should start the inquiry here. Bitingly concise, Lane's poetry is hard-and human-as bone.