Debbie: An Epic


96 pages
ISBN 0-921586-61-2
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Kim Fahner

Kim Fahner is the author of You Must Imagine the Cold Here.


The poems in this book are linked by an obvious legend rather than by a
traditional table of contents, as the poet begins to subvert the idea of
the epic poem in particular, and of classical literature and society in
general. Robertson works diligently to subvert the history and place of
the epic form in poetry. She turns the stereotypical images of women in
classical history and literature on their heads in a topsy-turvy manner
that can leave an unsuspecting reader feeling just a bit disoriented.
She thumbs her nose, in a spirited way, at the dead guys in togas who
seem to dominate the beginnings of all undergraduate classes in literary
criticism. As she says at the end of the book, “The transparency of
the classical is a gorgeously useless ruse.” All the more reason, it
seems, to subvert the foundations in favor of nonpatriarchal language
and culture.

What Robertson offers as an alternative is a shifting kaleidoscope of
words, shaded and darkened at random, differing in font sizes and
styles, and seeming always to be trying to keep the reader off centre.
Complacency isn’t a good thing; linguistic innovation, in
Robertson’s work, seems to be a poetic hallmark of her own personal
style. Her foray into the subversion of a poetic archetype—the epic
form—is a bit unsettling and may even alienate readers who are
unprepared for a book of poems that challenges stereotypes that are
rooted in both gender and literature.


Robertson, Lisa., “Debbie: An Epic,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 13, 2024,