WITH MANY awards to her credit and a new book out almost every two years, Patricia Young, often described as "one of Canada's finest poets," has a hefty reputation to live up to.
Young's sixth volume, More Watery Still (Anansi, 85 pages, $12.95 paper), offers fans of her accessible, engaging sensibility and unerring selection of details what they have come to expect: lucid and sometimes offbeat recreations of childhood memories and family life. However, readers seeking evidence of an artist trying to extend her own limits will find intriguing but all too brief examples of such an endeavour.
With the first poem, "When the Body Speaks to the Heart It Says," Young ventures into a world apart from the domestic and familiar realm that she has explored so successfully in earlier books. She handles the uncomfortable assertions of the body with deft observation and wit: "You may want love, beauty, the ineffable / things but I am not interested / in what you want."
I turned the page expectantly. "Tobacco Jar, 1867" was a disappointment after such an exciting start. This poem seemed forced, focused on an object that did not yield any poetic illumination, as if Young were desperately seeking subject matter. As I read on, I moved back and forth between delight and disappointment: from the knowledge of inevitable loss so finely expressed in "The Gift" to the banal toss-off "Boyfriends"; from the compelling surrealism of "Among the Yellow Lilies" to "The Wisians," which is clever but seems out of place.
More Watery Still gives the impression of having been rushed into print. It's a fine collection, one I'd recommend, but if Young had waited to fill this volume with only her best work, it could have been extraordinary.