Naked with Summer in Your Mouth

by Al Purdy,
ISBN: 077107221X

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Brief Reviews - Poetry
by Carmelita McGrath

SINCE IT FOLLOWS MORE THAN 30 volumes of poetry, Al Purdy's latest book, Naked with Summer in Your Mouth (McClelland & Stewart, 130 pages, $12.99 paper), is tempting to approach as "poetry of recollection." indeed, the reader familiar with his work encounters many familiar landmarks in Purdy territory -- places and names, moments and impressions revisited. Yet Purdy's latest work draws at least as much from the new as it does from retrospective, and what makes Naked with Summer in Your Mouth most enjoyable is this veteran poet's ability to approach the world as if each moment is the one in which everything will be experienced for the first time.

In the title poem, the narrator is "drinking the sun's white whiskey / and beginning to realize / there is no past and no future / you're born at this precise moment

...... Observed from Purdy's "precise moment," life flows both backward and forward, coming together in moments and locations, as in "Glacier Spell":

Do not touch words to what has no


or feet the place of wandering stones

with eyes

the beast we hunt must not be said

its smell rides under the wind

its face remembers our faces

In poems such as "Grosse Isle," "Return Journey," and especially "Home," Purdy continues to expand the poetic atlas of the country, a place of sensory riches that leads the narrator of "Home" to a site where:

... I dream of islands

in a spring of wild roses

and write another poem

in this enchanted country

A sombre mood pervades some of this collection, a sense of loss of people who remain dear, a sense of mortality. But there is also humour, especially when Purdy writes about other poets. And always, there is wisdom and balance. Purdy's mature vision embodies the voice of an elder and the eyes of a child.


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