Those Were the Mermaid Days


96 pages
ISBN 0-921556-14-4
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Shannon Hengen

Shannon Hengen is an assistant professor of English at Laurentian


Young has composed a book of, predominantly, love lyrics that are always
authentic in tone, often surprising, and rarely obscure.

That a poet can write any love poems that show new perspectives on the
oldest of themes appears noteworthy, and Young does so—often with an
engaging wryness of tone. Poems treating the connections between mother
and child have not yet been overly emphasized in the English canon;
Young’s several poems in this vein therefore seem fresh. The more
typically discussed love between man and woman, husband and wife,
receives less attention and makes little impression. The strong
attachment between two young girls gains a pleasing prominence in
several lyrics, such that one wonders why Young does not broach the
topic of love between mature women other than sisters to reveal its
unique powers.

The longest piece in the volume, “The Women,” addresses the
conditions of the mothers who are neighbors on an ordinary street
somewhere in Canada in the 1950s, in a way that invites comparison
between those women and the speaker, herself a wife and mother in the
1990s. That no explicit comparison appears is disappointing.

Ideas of love also inform the structure. Divided into five sections of
varying length, the volume includes poems from the perspective of a
child, a teenager, a young adult, a parent, and a mature adult
witnessing her mother’s illness and her father’s death. Such a
perspectival range satisfies, as does the range of emotions. Assuming
that love provides the controlling idea, it should also be noted that
failures of love appear and are effectively placed—war, murder, and
smaller violences, for example.

All poems are simply worded, with metaphor and simile used judiciously.
Young has a special talent for endings, in which a closing figure or
trope will at times nicely complicate the lyric. Her weakness might be
an overuse of dream retellings, but overall this bemused poet’s voice


Young, Patricia., “Those Were the Mermaid Days,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,