Visionary Portraits


80 pages
ISBN 0-920544-80-0
DDC C811'.54






Reviewed by Bert Almon

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


Dutton is well known as a performer with the poetry group, “The Four
Horsemen.” He is also a prolific poet.

This book is self-indulgent and locked into a constricted conception of
poetry. The exceedingly short lines adorned by little but a tedious
parallelism create portraits that generally seem the antithesis of
visionary. The opening poem is an elaborate description of a fashion
show. It provides a tedious 10-page item-by-item description of the
clothing worn by the men and women at a fashion show—right down to the
number of eyelets on their shoes. The poem tries to deal obliquely with
the speaker’s attitudes toward his parents, but the point doesn’t
really become clear. The speaker’s claustrophobic preoccupation with
his family is associated in the second poem with his voyeuristic spying
on his sisters in the bathroom. This may be the low point of the
collection, though it has to compete with the fifth poem, a six-page
description of a woman and the clothing she is wearing. It would be
difficult to convey the tedium of this poem without quoting several
pages. The one successful poem is a complex meditation that creates a
montage of Tom Thomson’s famous West Wind pine with a maple tree on a
South Ontario lawn and uses the resulting image as a contrast with the
banality of city life. While the poem traffics in social
stereotypes—lawyers, bankers, and accounts—the inquiry into the
fabric of daily life seems accurate, and the imagery is effective. For
once the portrait manages to be visionary.


Dutton, Paul., “Visionary Portraits,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,