Tracing One Warm Line: Poetry of Canada


235 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-55081-089-8
DDC C811'.008





Edited by Elisabeth Mouland
Reviewed by Don Precosky

Don Precosky teaches English at the College of New Caledonia and is the
co-editor of Four Realities: Poets of Northern B.C.


The title of this wide-ranging anthology of Canadian poetry suggests
that its contents were selected and organized according to some
consistent criterion. Editor Elisabeth Mouland has, in fact, used two
systems of organization and selection: historical period and thematic
content. The two systems do not always dovetail logically.

The first section, “The Line Begins: A Selection of Aboriginal
Voices,” illustrates the confusion that can happen. The Native peoples
were here first (that’s why they are called “First Nations”), but
many of the First Nations writers in this section are contemporary
poets. They don’t precede the writers in subsequent sections: so is it
history or ethnicity that Mouland is stressing here? A First Nations
poet, alive and writing today, is not beginning “the line.”

Section 2, “And the Line Continues” (which is divided into three
smaller parts: “Of Explorers, Voyageurs, and Adventurers,” “A
Selection of Canadian Classics,” and “The Modern”), contains the
core poets one often finds in a survey course of Canadian literature and
could be very useful for a senior high-school course, though there are
not enough poems by each important author to make it suitable for a
university course.

The last section, “Into the 21st Century,” is thematically divided
into three shorter parts: “New Immigrant Voices” (in which some of
the poets are, in fact, not immigrants), “A Selection of
Poet-Songwriters” (an interesting selection, especially for us older
readers, since it does not contain work by contemporary rock/rap
songwriters from Canada), and “Students and Others” (the students
appear to be mostly from Newfoundland). We should be told that this part
of the book does not contain a representative national cross section of
new voices.

The “Selected Biographies” section at the end of the book is
scandalously inadequate. First, why are there only selected biographies
and not notes about all of the authors? Furthermore, of those writers
selected, why do some have their dates of birth (and of death where
appropriate) given, while others—such as Fred Cogswell (b. 1917) and
Mary di Michele (b. 1949)—do not?

Very few new anthologies of Canadian poetry are being published,
especially ones that make some attempt at comprehensiveness. It is a
pity that this one has been so poorly organized and presented.


“Tracing One Warm Line: Poetry of Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,