Whiskey Jack


47 pages
ISBN 0-919957-21-8






Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan

Michael O. Nowlan was a teacher and writer in Oromocto, New Brunswick.


Milton Acorn’s legacy to the literary life of this country is rich. Whiskey Jack, with an introduction by Al Purdy, is a collection of nature poems, most of which are about some feathered creature. The title poem, “Whiskey Jack,” perhaps sums up much of the poet’s own character where he talks about being loved and how can one be “so sure that you’re loved.” He further explores that aspect in “The Blackbird” where he suggests that “the only aim of love, like life, is love itself.”

It was through nature, especially through birds, that Acorn came to understand the simplicity of life and love. Although he has written elsewhere about the gloomy and the grotesque, these poems, many of which are sonnets, echo a gentleness and “spiritual stuff” that inspires. Al Purdy sees the birds in the dimension of “images, metaphors ... that fly around in your brain.” In this way, Acorn’s poems have added strength.

Acorn was a fine, not a great, poet. It is easy to dismiss some of the evocations in Whiskey Jack, but closer reading reveals an understanding of humanity that can only be truly measured in the poetic voice.


Acorn, Milton, “Whiskey Jack,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35027.