by P. H.
I HAVE NO RESPECT for flaunted cleverness, and am Suspicious of professed awe when it is buttered with sarcasm. I also take exception to a first book whose jacket notes proclaim its author to be "an emerging master" -- to me that is as oxymoronic as the term "modern classic." So I think little of Bruce Taylor`s Cold Rubber Feet (Cormorant, 117 pages, $9.95 paper), even as I recognize its accomplished, unfaltering voice and versatility.
The opening poem, "Social Studies:` which won the E. J. Pratt Award, is a formal, rhyming poem. Enough of the others are also formal -- directly so in their rhyming, or indirectly so by being imitations of non-formal, entrenched styles -- that reading becomes a game of guessing influence. ("A Storm and Three Bulls" echoes Robert Lowell`s "Colloquy in Black Rock" period ...) The effect of this is that one ends up admiring how a poem happens rather than what happens in the poem, or what the poem happens to be about.
The last section, which was previously published as a chapbook, "Getting On with the Era," consists of exotic tales of an imagined childhood or childhoods and is fun and surprising to read. Near the beginning of this book there are a few poems (like "400 Jobs in Murdochville") in which a personal voice dominates, but generally, and I suppose the book`s title gives fair warning of this, the poems offer facility and vocabulary instead of human emotional necessities. They do not smack of having had to be written.
So: a well-written book that I don`t like for content and/or lack of content. Must we Canadians fall into a march step of admiration for "the new formalism" that Americans began to toot about in their journals five or so years ago? Must we too forget the patient teachings of Borges, who demonstrated how the most magical fantasies demand no fanfare, only integrity?