88 pages
ISBN 1-894800-30-3
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


It is getting difficult to keep pace with George Whipple’s poetry
publications. Tom Thomson and Other Poems appeared in 2001, and I had
only just written my review of Origins (2003) when Fanfares appeared.
Yet even more remarkable than this outburst of creativity is the
consistent high standard of the books. Once again, Whipple demonstrates
that there is no substitute for diligent mastery of technique as a
prerequisite for the writing of verse.

Whipple’s range is well illustrated here by the sections into which
Fanfares is divided: “Time and the River” (poems of memory and
celebration), “The Joust” (about the vagaries of love—from
“Aphrodite” to “Onan”!), “A Few Haiku” (deft experiments
faithful to the Japanese form without being slavishly imitative),
“Books” (poems about music and painting as well as poetry),
“Matins” (thoughtful, delicate poems expressing religious emotion
without ever sounding either stuffy or determinedly uplifting), and
“Postlude” (which skilfully gathers up strands).

Whipple writes easily but always felicitously. Most of these poems are
in free verse, but a free verse that has benefited from years of
practice with traditional forms. Occasional appropriate but always
unexpected rhyme; the subtle exploitation of line breaks; decorous
wordplay; sudden metaphoric sparkle (“the blood-soaked / warranty on
heart and lungs,” “Tendrils of white rain”); original word-choice
(high-rises as “our unabashed tall Babylons,” “The mendicant
stance / of a squirrel”): all these make the difference between
run-of-the-mill verse and authentic creation.

Fanfares, despite its title, does not demand our attention with flashy
or sensational methods but, if given the chance, will quietly blend into
our consciousness. It deserves a fanfare of its own.


Whipple, George., “Fanfares,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,