Sweetgrass II


103 pages
ISBN 0-920544-78-9
DDC C811'.54






Reviewed by Bert Almon

Bert Almon is a professor of English at the University of Alberta and
author of Calling Texas.


In Sweetgrass II, the well-known Ojibway poet Wayne Keon shows a
remarkable range of themes in a rather restricted stylistic mode.
Exceedingly short lines predominate, usually arranged in brief stanzas,
and eccentric spellings (“nd” for “and”) make the poems appear
more experimental than they really are.

At its best the voice is clear and compelling. Lyrical
strategies—like surprising turns and conclusions, and adroit
repetitions—compensate for the intermittent monotony of style. Certain
key words, like “silver” and “majik,” run through the book,
gaining meaning as they go, and bits of story form around names like
“Linda.” The book is as much a lyrical diary as a gathering of

Keon deals with sorrow and joy in the first person without giving an
impression of egotism. He is equally aware of natural beauty and urban
alienation. His lyrical appreciation of nature gives him continuity with
Native traditional poetry. The poems based on myth and shamanism are
not, however, as effective as his explorations of a more recognizable
contemporary world. The poems set in Mexico are particularly good: we
get an interesting interplay between his Canadian background and what he
has observed in Yucatan, Taxco, and Chapultapec. This is a fine book,
one that accumulates authority with each fresh reading.


Keon, Wayne., “Sweetgrass II,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10429.