Intent, Or The Weight Of The World

by Roo Borson
119 pages,
ISBN: 0771015887

The End Of Innocence: Selected Poems

by Gail Fox
179 pages,
ISBN: 0887507395

Post Your Opinion
Rain And Storm
by Bruce Whiteman

IN A POEM called "Fingernails," Roo Borson makes an interesting confession: I, on the other hand, am fascinated, have always been gifted with a visionary clumsiness, never knowing where the world stops and I begin.

This negative capability (in the Keatsian sense) is a characteristic of many great poets, and in the greatest is found in combination with an innate mastery of the formal elements of art. Borson's selfconfessed inability to delimit the inner and the outer is reified in her poetry by a characteristic emphasis on the sensuous, and particularly on visual images, as the main procedural device. Her work is rarely argumentative, and seldom dependent on the mind's ability to make intelligent sense of the world. The sense she does make or the world is visceral, intuitive, and induced from the sensoria to which she is so keenly attendant:

Around the houses for
miles, in a century
of usual delusions, history
- this waterfall of rain.
All afternoon the two of us,
during, after, for.
Spreading through the
the uterus, the Parts of the
body that have to do
with giving up, giving over
to the
new - no shame. Such af
ternoons are few.
It would be sweet to begin
as the rain starts up, never
failing to surprise.
Those who've never cried
from happiness,
these are allowed to love the

It is not surprising that Borson is attracted to the prose Poem, for one of its traditional accommodations has been to the kind of thinking in images that is typical of her approach to the Poem. In the sentence itself as a controlling factor in the poem (the other great strength of the prose poem), Borson seems less interested; as a result her prose poems sometimes verge on mere poetic prose or "thoughts" thrown off when the poetic impulse was too weak for anything else. But most of the time she succeeds in finding her way to a Powerful and nicely modulated prose poem in a voice that is recognizably her own:

If you sit still long enough, doing nothing, even the birds will forgive your presence. A Paddling mallard in a skirt of froth, that unfathomable expression full of fish about it. And the shy, hypnotized fliers, fluctuating out of nowhere, behind trees.

The disappointing title poem narrates the coming and going (concomitant with spring's arrival) of a longish depression. It certainly has a place in the book, as it fits well into Borson's own characterization of Intent as "A collection of whatever's been on my mind the last few years." But it is not very successful, and I am rather sorry that she chose its title for the book as a whole. For the world that she is most deft at bringing into the poem is characterized not by intent, but (as she puts it in a poem entitled "Jogging") by "the / intimate disinterest / by which all things are held / in the one stretched / openended moment."

Gail Fox's The End of Innocence is a selection from almost 20 years of this Kingston poet's work, from Dangerous Season (1969) to The Deepening of the Colours (1986). Fox has always been a poet to explore the dark side of consciousness, and if there is a thread that runs through her work it is the search for an alibi, a defence against madness. Various Poems imagine the poet as the village idiot, as a dinosaur doomed to extinction, and poetry itself as a shout to God, a kind of desperate message in a bottle Pitched into the sea:

So I write my spoken words, I commune with Paper and hope that someone will offer to listen today or tomorrow or sometime before my patience runs out Poetry as therapy is rarely very -interesting as poetry; but Fox has a good enough sense of craft to protect the poems most of the time from being merely psychoprophylaxis. Over the course of the book this impetus fades, in fact, until at the end poetry is described more pertinently as Only a Pressure that can be dealt with when written down. And then a kind of ecstasy that lasts like love until the thirst returns.

It will be interesting to see where Fox's poetry goes from here.


Home First Novel Award Past Winners Subscription Back Issues Timescroll Advertizing Rates
Amazon.ca/Books in Canada Bestsellers List Books in Issue Books in Department About Us