Seven Seasons


81 pages
ISBN 0-88750-960-6
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is a professor of English at Laurentian University.


The seven sections of this collection span far more dimensions than
spells of weather. The infinite mystical suggestiveness of seven—seas,
days, hills, spheres, circles, years, wonders—is the unspoken matrix
over which Stratford’s poems play. Additionally, and remarkably, the
unique voice of these poems resounds with a wide range of Canadian
poets: from Lampman, Carman, and Crawford to Avison, MacEwen, and
Zieroth. The poems offer the reader a chance to share in the “joy of
observation, / the joy of abstracting / from the uniqueness of this
scene, / as poets and painters do, / new signs with which to invoke /
the essence of its singularity.” Occasionally the poems become
self-conscious, as shown by the above-quoted excerpt from “It Must
Have Been the Motion of the Boat”; but these moments of
self-consciousness are not mere postmodern gestures of intellectual
undercutting and indeterminacy: far from it.

The overall movement of Seven Seasons is the rhythm of thawing and
freezing. The poet is fascinated by particularities such as dream
events, starlings, a hoe, a blue jay, a flautist, a friend’s manner,
the sound of maple sap hitting a can, a storm, the configuration of the
stars and moon one New Year’s Eve. At the same time (and Stratford is
very generous in his welcoming, not overwhelming the reader), some poems
present moments of solidification and stasis. Images of skating over
frozen ponds and lakes, Georgian Bay rocks, the domes of Jerusalem, and
war cemeteries in northern France, for example, develop in the poems as
easily as spring turns to winter. At times the poems themselves gel into
rigorous rhyme-schemes and metres. The poet is fascinated too by this
process. It is not that he becomes overconfident or triumphant about
having found some ultimate answer; rather, seeing the writing of poems
as also an aspect of the momentary suspension of change, he rejoices,
simply and infectiously. As much as a brief excerpt is able, the last
stanza of “Northern Seasons” sounds the volume’s key: “And each
dead twig’s tip / is a bud bursting free / in the spring that will
come / in the time that will be.” A lovely book.



Stratford, Phillip., “Seven Seasons,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,