Post Your Opinion
A Review of: Midgic
by Paul Vermeersch

Douglas Lochhead's Midgic is as long and slender as a ribbon of New Brunswick coastal highway, and just as pretty. The book itself is another exceptional example of the printer's art from Nova Scotia's Gaspereau Press, an independent printing and publishing house with the reputation of producing some of the finest-looking trade paperbacks in the country today. The luxurious paper and delicate typography make a fittingly lovely setting for Lochhead's quiet, meditative verse.
If the title seems a little arcane and strange at first, then you're probably not from New Brunswick. Midgic is a small hamlet about 10km northeast of the city of Sackville (of which, incidentally, Lochhead was recently named poet-laureate). It is a place where one can witness, "a pillowed sea/ again the mouth/ touching the white beach/ out there" and where "laughter rolls like/ eggs across the snow"
Such gentle imagery hints at great fondness, and in the preface to the book, Lochhead comes clean: "This is a love story. A celebration. A gathering of lyrical word-moments which reveal how one person came to know and care for a village." Given the subject matter, one man's enthusiasm for rural surroundings, one might want to draw comparisons with Wordsworth. In it's execution, however, Midgic has more wide-ranging antecedents.
There are 74 of these "lyrical word-moments" all told. In both form and function, they resemble spiritual mantras, and while reading them one might hear tiny echoes of the stark, declarative lines of Rumi or Khalil Gibran, or of the natural, contemplative precision of Japanese haiku. Each numbered instalment is a Zen-like illustration, a minimalist encapsulation of the poet's observations on the people and landscapes of Midgic, but taken individually, these miniature poems sometimes suffer from the limitations of their sparseness.
No individual poem is longer than nine lines, and the lines are markedly short. Certainly, innumerable poets all down the ages, from King David to Sappho to Emily Dickinson (whom Lochhead apostrophizes in "Midgic #24"), have proven substantial magic can be conjured with a handful of words, but the best modern practitioners of such modestly-proportioned verse (I'm thinking, along with Dickinson, of American imagists H.D., W.C. Williams, and early Ezra Pound) were always faithful to the adage "it is better to show than to tell."
With so little room to manoeuvre, the component epigrams of Midgic slide dangerously close to triteness and sentimentality, occasionally slipping over the edge. This happens whenever Lochhead merely declares his affection for the village (the final line of the book is, unfortunately, "Midgic, I love thee."), rather than using his copious lyrical and descriptive talents to paint a verbal picture that could trigger corresponding emotions in the reader.
It may be better to view these poems as simple links in a considerable chain. Only when read as one long poem, rather than as a suite of smaller ones, do the scope and gravitas of Lochhead's tribute converge, becoming akin to a vista, a picturesque, bucolic settlement glimpsed all at once from a hill. Like the village itself, the composition named for it is populated with individuals, with individual strengths and weaknesses, but only when taken together do they become something as complete and as pleasant as Midgic.

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