Little Eurekas: A Decade's Thoughts on Poetry.


272 pages
ISBN 978-1-897231-29-6
DDC C811.009






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.


Subtitled A Decade’s Thoughts on Poetry, Robyn Sarah’s Little Eurekas is an often delightful, certainly thought provoking collection of short essays, reviews, and interviews about poetry in general, specific works of poetry, and her own work. Sarah is a fairly traditional lyric poet, and the poetry she discusses falls mostly into that category, but she responds thoughtfully and emotionally, and very articulately, to the work she loves.


She also has some interesting thoughts on poetics, editing, teaching, and reviewing poetry, which readers may not always agree with but will find intriguing. For example, although the stricture cannot apply to everyone, there is something to be said for her desire to see poets publish shorter collections longer apart (her ideal: 48 pages very seven years). She includes some appreciations of specific poems, and her range is wide, especially to other nations’ poets. There is a lovely long essay on George Johnston, a poet I agree has been undervalued.


I like her admission that “No single definition of poetry, or prescription for what a poem should be—mine or anyone else’s—has ever satisfied me.” Also, her concept of “voice” as belonging to the poem, not the poet, is intriguing. I especially like her insistence that “poetic understanding” is much more complex than many teach, “that it had less to do with being able to paraphrase a poem’s ‘meaning’ than with allowing oneself to be given a feeling by the interplay of images, by the cadence of verses—that one needed no more to know the ‘about’ of a poem than one needed to know it of a dream or a piece of music, in order to appreciate the qualities of those.” I can like someone who gets that about poetry. And readers will, I think, like a lot of Sarah’s thoughts.


Sarah, Robyn., “Little Eurekas: A Decade's Thoughts on Poetry.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,