(How Poems Work, February 2004)
At 60 words, including title, “The Mole”; exemplifies poetry’s potential for compression. On the surface, this is a simple bit of verse, a brief encomium to an unlikely animal hero, but P.K. Page invests the mole’s activities with a significance that compels the reader to unearth deeper layers of meaning.
In the first line, Page employs language that pushes the reader beyond the literal sense of the poem. Instead of a simple “tunnel,” “[t]he mole goes down the slow dark personal passage.” This metaphor–its archetypal status reinforced by the definite article “the,” instead of the less specific “a” binds the mole to other travellers in the physical world and the less tangible realms of psyche and language (“passage” connoting a means of transit, a segment of text and, encompassing all possible meanings, life’s journey). Thus, the mole is a stand-in for the poet/artist, who navigates a solitary life in the midst of others with the help of language and imagination; or, less specifically, for anyone who struggles to understand their personal place in the often unfathomable darkness of the world….
(How Poems Work, January 2004)
Peter Trower’s “Industrial Poem” is an anachronism: a ballad, first published in 1978. Originating in medieval traditions of oral folk song, the first printed ballads date back to the early 16th century and the form was often adopted by poets well into the 19th century. In the 20th century, however, the ballad, rooted in straightforward narrative, singsong rhythms and regular rimes, fell into disrepute as a vessel for serious poetry, and was relegated to the ghetto of popular doggerel. Not one to kowtow to authority, Trower wields the ballad stanza like a fine old rust-flecked sword. Often used to convey outrage against social and economic injustice, particularly during the Industrial Revolution, the ballad is a fitting structure for the content of this poem.
(How Poems Work, December 2003)
Al Purdy said of R.G. Everson that he had “one foot in the nineteenth century and the other in the twentieth.” Born in 1903, he was raised on a farm outside Oshawa, obtained a law degree, spent five years writing in an isolated log cabin, and became the president of a Montreal PR firm, just two years out of the woods. This unique position vis-a-vis multiple ages and worlds is ingrained in the language and structure of “He Loved in All Directions,” a poem at once classic and modern, laidback and letter-perfect.