More Garden Varieties: Two


98 pages
ISBN 0-920544-76-2
DDC C811'.5408





Reviewed by Don Precosky

Don Precosky teaches English at the College of New Caledonia in Prince


More Garden Varieties: Two is an anthology of poems selected from the
entries in the League of Canadian Poets’ 1990 National Poetry Contest.
The collection is preceded by an introduction by Patrick Lane—who,
along with Miriam Waddington and Joyce Marshall—was one of the judges
in the contest. There were three winners selected: Diana Brebner, Blaine
Marchand, and D.J. Eastwood. Their poems appear first in the anthology,
followed by others (selected by the judges) arranged in alphabetical
order by author.

Although the three winning poems are very good, they were not my
favorites in the book. I was particularly impressed by five pieces.

In “I Keep Taking” Marlene Cookshaw writes out of her
dissatisfaction with life. She asks herself a question (“What is this
desire of mine?”) and answers it with a series of statements that
begin with “I want.” Then—and this is what makes the poem so
good—she goes further, beyond wanting and into action, with a series
of “We must” statements. The poem (my favorite in the collection)
thus charts a path from vague whining to problem definition to the
identification of solutions.

Barry Dempster’s “Adam and Innocence” is a personal poem about a
child (presumably his) and how the child can learn from his experience
and how Dempster can learn from the child’s innocence. That the
child’s name is Adam adds a mythic dimension.

“Akrasia,” by Debbie Fersht, also involves a child but this time
the child is the poet as she once was. The difference between England
and Canada is allegorized in a story. The poet, as a poor recent
immigrant to Canada, is taken to a toy store by an aunt and is
overwhelmed by the abundance of choice to the point of despair and
panic, and comes away with a pretty mediocre toy (a Slinky).

Alison Hopwood’s “Debts & Divisions” consists of loosely
strung-together meditations on art, nationality, gender relations, and
oppression. More experimental than most of the pieces in the book, it is
also insightful, intuitive, and witty.

Finally, there is Karen Ruttan’s “Stepping into the Water,” a
narrative poem with a meditative edge. A man drops dead at the summer
cottage, leaving the writer in a kind of shock.

Congratulations to the editors and to the poets for a job well done.


“More Garden Varieties: Two,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,