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Seasons Of The Sacred
by Maggie Helwig

THOUGH BETTER KNOWN as a playwright, Daniel David Moses has published one previous book of poetry, Delicate Bodies. His second collection, The White Line, should make it clear that he is worth noting as a poet. Moses` voice is firm and assured, but oddly hard to define, combining a loose colloquial sprawl and a pared-down tenseness, an on-and-off leaning towards traditional fixed forms and rhyme patterns, a mythic imagination and an everyday chattiness. He writes in a world in which everything is not only possessed of consciousness, but seems engaged in thoughtful consideration of itself. Raised on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ontario, and a founder of the Committee to Re-Establish the Trickster, Moses clearly draws some of the character of his writing from the oral literature of the Native peoples of Canada, though there is little explicit use of traditional Native stories. Rather, it is his merging of the daily and the sacred that he inherits, his sense of the thoughtful world - and his irreverence, as well. The White Line is divided into three sections, each corresponding to one of the seasons of the year (spring is left out). "The White Line;" the final, winter section, also contains Moses`s reflections on writing itself (and there just has to be something typically Canadian about linking up writing and winter this way, though I would hate to speculate about it off the top of my head): It`s too bad if anyone imagines words have ever bled when the clean blackness of letters on this paper should imply that it`s easy to live... There is nothing but white between the lines ("Paper") The summer section, `Ascension in June;` is equally strong, the prevailing images glass and sky and hands; less literary, though perhaps just as self-referential in different ways: Of course you worry the sky is so stupid it wont see when you`re dead... Of course, you are mistaken. The sky is full of remorse. The darkness of its face cries the eyes of the land back in, will even water your horse. ("Of Course the Sky Does Not Close") There are poems, too, of dandelions, bees, and corn, the bright things of heat. "The Fall;` the first section of the book, is perhaps the least focused, seeming an assortment of occasional pieces, but they are individually strong. Maybe the most notable is the odd poem "The Politicians Miracle Play` a hybrid of counter-hype and magic: You see how insane it would be with my opponent in power? Your flesh would be rent by the rawest of flowers and the taxes would use up the land Moses` visual imagery, too, is striking and vivid, though not pictoral or picturesque in any normal way - having much to do with dark and light, and drawing the visual together with the tactile. And the poems never lose the persistence of ward and thought, which almost always take precedence over sense imagery of any kind. One of the strongest poems in the book is "Grandmother of the Glacier;" one of several poems about Moses` grandmother: Her body`s been swallowed. Ours may be next. But even though we throw them in, her words Keep surfacing. May ours too be heard from again - edging some terminal moraine... Moses does edge the terminal moraine; yet with such gentle humour and humanness, and such precision, that it becomes a thing we can be part of and still live.

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