Wonders at the Corner


80 pages
ISBN 0-9685339-8-1
DDC C811'.6




Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is chair of the English Department at Laurentian
University and the editor of Arachne, Laurentian University’s
bilingual interdisciplinary journal of language and literature.


The title poem of this attractively produced volume of verse nicely
illustrates many of the characteristic features of Collins’s work. She
often employs one or more narratives, even in these brief lyrics, as
scaffolding to reach the poetic effects that the poems seek. “Wonders
at the Corner” begins with the narrator’s quest, impersonally
stated, to locate the old portage route along the Humber River between
Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. The poem sets itself as though to tell the
story of this ancient First Nations trail, which became a French and
British military and trade route and is currently a site marked in a
parkette for the curious.

This hint of a multi-layered history creates the effect of a rich
spatial and temporal vantage point, and instantly gives way, much as the
opening movement of a symphony does, to the present moment, when
automobile traffic is the flowing water, and “like a salmon flipping
upriver, a road-stained, flattened straw hat” bounces toward the
narrator, who puts it on. Adding yet another dimension to the
increasingly amazing corner, the poet describes the hat as “louche.”
Putting the hat on seems to cause a variety of extraordinary events,
disruptions of ordinary occurrences: old men start to salute her, dogs
tangle in their leashes, babies’ prams go over curbs. The poem closes
with the narrator’s passing the straw hat and some spare change to a
beggar, along with the possibility that the hat will work wonders for
the beggar too. It’s easy to see the parallel here with the poet’s
intention in all of her writing, to act as a midwife for the birth of

Collins is a skilled poet, and her work ranges widely, interestingly,
across times and cultures. These poems, some previously published in
prominent Canadian journals, make a fine collection.


Collins, Suzanne., “Wonders at the Corner,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/14665.