The Broken World: Poems 1967–1998


250 pages
ISBN 1-55071-210-1
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


Len Gasparini’s The Broken World is a kind of edited collected poems,
and offers a wide range of the poems Gasparini has written over those
decades. In the preface, he says “you can’t write about anything
unless you’ve experienced it,” and this credo, also stated as his
“lyric quest / for objective experience,” rather naively understood,
seems to be his Romantic standard.

There are loads of “tell it like it is” poems here, kind of
Bukowski Lite, but there are also many poems where the lyric poet with
an eye for small beauties shines through.

The first poem, “The Photograph of my Grandfather Reading Dante,”
points to much of Gasparini’s work, a kind of Sousterean realism
tinged with respect and love for the ordinary that is always extra, with
straightforward descriptive sentences broken strategically, as in
“Detroit Nocturne”: “From a tenement rooftop / a black boy watches
/ the total eclipse of the moon / and spits watermelon seeds at the

Gasparini’s obviously political poems, like his attacks on
“academic” poets, have all the usual failings. His more specifically
located travel poems and poems of life in working-class districts across
Canada and the United States have greater political heft because they
show what is. I found the poems for children a bit obvious, but many
were good fun. Although Gasparini would likely disagree, I found his
nature lyrics most persuasive, not least in the superb “In My
Father’s Garden,” where each stanza catches a particular image of
garden life, a frog, an insect, or a flower.

The Broken World offers readers such a wide range of forms and themes
that any interested reader will find something to move him or her in
response between its covers.


Gasparini, Len., “The Broken World: Poems 1967–1998,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024,