Blaine Marchand has produced a loving elegiac memorial to his mother who lived for over a century (1913-2016). Kathleen Dorothy, a childhood victim of diphtheria (“the strangling angel”), claimed to have had “a long and lucky” life, though she and a younger brother, Robert, were placed in an Ottawa orphanage after her parents separated and their mother had fled to Montreal. “Adopted” by the Irishes (who had seven children of their own), she learned etiquette, enunciation, and deportment before she graduated in 1931 from Rideau Street Convent, eventually marrying and starting her own large brood. This three-part story is one of perseverance and love: the first (covering 29 years) being Kathleen’s point of view as projected through the poet; the second (spanning the next 12 years) being the poet’s lyrical remembrances; and the third (the mother’s final three years, darkened by old age and the spectre of death) serving as a moving document of last days, where time and memory also reach a point of exhaustion with the dying mother.
Jane Hirshfield has said that “a poem of beauty has at least one foot standing in sorrow.” This is certainly the case in this new collection by Miller Adams. There is sorrow aplenty and the book is replete with writing of great beauty.