Da Capo: The Selected Poems of ED Blodgett


247 pages
ISBN 0-920897-86-X
DDC C811'.54





Edited by Paul Hjartarson
Reviewed by Shannon Hengen

Shannon Hengen is an assistant professor of English at Laurentian


The Italian title, da Capo, is taken from one of Blodgett’s recent
poems and can be roughly translated as “back to the beginning.” It
points appropriately to the contents of a book that reviews Blodgett’s
poetic career from the beginning. Editor Hjartarson has selected from
Blodgett’s five published volumes. His scholarly introduction attests
to the difficulty of Blodgett’s work, adding another sense to the
titles—the enigma at the heart of a poetry which studies its own
genesis, the point at which nature is repressed into language, and
instinct becomes speech.

Blodgett’s success seem consistently to bear the titles of natural
things; for example, “Flowers,” “Alba,” “Egg,” “Colloquy
in Fall,” and, perhaps the strongest, “Coda: For Ducks.” That
sequence of poems from Beastgate (1980) ends wondering “whether birds
/ playing and feeding in the gentle reeds should ever / see themselves
as ducks flattened on the water’s face.” The paradox of being
human—a conscious animal—emerges in simply crafted, syllabic form,
with assonance and euphony, in contrast to other places in Blodgett’s
work in which the balance seems wrong.

The language can seem too acoustically self-conscious, especially in
his earliest, exclusively accentual verse. Or his diction can be too
erudite and allusive, with overuse of apostrophe, and his syntax too
complex or foreign, stressing too heavily the conscious, cerebral, and

Ricou assesses Blodgett’s Arché/Elegies in the most recent Literary
History of Canada as “one of the major works of contemporary Canadian
poetry.” The reader can sense this importance more than experience it
directly, for Blodgett’s poetry gives out its beauty and power only
upon reflection. This new edition of Blodgett’s selected poems, like
the regally dark replication of a Pompeiian relief on the book’s
cover, impresses quietly.


Blodgett, E.D., “Da Capo: The Selected Poems of ED Blodgett,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10964.