Douglas Burnet Smith is one of our best poets, with collections of deftly created lyrics (especially in Ladders to the Moon and Learning to Count) and a stunning anti-war long work, The Killed. His new book is an anti-war narrative sequence, set in 1915 during World War I, that swirls around the execution of teenaged Private Herbert Burden on a charge of desertion. Narrated by very young Canadian soldier, Lance Corporal Reginald Smith (the poet’s distant relative), the story intertwines Smith with the tragic fate of Burden, one of hundreds so executed.
“I walk in the world to love it,” asserted Mary Oliver, who asserted a connection between soul and landscape. Her words serve as an appropriate prologue to Lorna Crozier’s new collection, which is an inspired coupling of her poetry and full-colour photography from Peter Coffman and Diane Laundy. Crozier is not as dewy-eyed as Oliver was about nature, nor is she as elliptical as Louise Glück, who also has a major reputation as a nature poet. In fact, Crozier may be Canada’s answer to Jane Hirshfield, who, like Crozier, is possessed of delicate reversals and apertures of wisdom.
“The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority.”
– Homi Bhabha , Of Mimicry and Man
Shane Neilson, a much-lauded poet, was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award for New Brunswick, a technically adept homage to his home province, as well as a symphonic work that is part elegy, part meditation. Dedicated to his deceased parents, his book begins with a poem by John Donne and “Pass By,” a song by Neilson that received Honourable Mention in a regional contest. The combination is instructive, their themes of pain and loss the very ones Neilson has explored in other works. The song foreshadows the poet’s abiding love of place, a fact established not just by the content of other poems but by Neilson’s framing of the collection, where the first specimen is a prose poem incorporated within a historical timeline of New Brunswick history, and where the final poem is the conclusion of a corona sonnet sequence about forms of loss.