Everything Happens at Once


70 pages
ISBN 0-86492-078-4




Reviewed by Bev Daurio

Bev Daurio was an editor and poet in Toronto.


Yvonne Trainer was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and educated at the University of New Brunswick and the University of Lethbridge. Her first book, Customers ( Fiddlehead, 1983), and this, her second, were published in New Brunswick. Everything Happens at Once is dedicated to the late East Coast poet Alden Nowlan, and the epigraphs for the three sections in the book are taken from Nowlan’s work. Though she writes mainly about the prairies, her work joins east and west by its concentration on the rural, and its avoidance of the urban, both in theme and content.

Trainer is at her best allowing the details of what she is describing to speak for themselves, as in “1972,” “Yellow,” or “How Right Our Voices Sound When We Sing Amen.” When she editorializes, or pulls back from the poem to say she’s looking, mainly when the “I” enters the poem unnecessarily, strong poems are weakened and weak poems melt. “Magpie” is in two halves entwined: a series of questions about the bird — “Is this bird talking to me?” — which forces attention back to the writer; and a searing description of the bird and its feathers, which would have been a beautiful poem by itself.

Trainer’s is a poetry of careful observation and imagery which draws heavily on earth, sky and the precious nature of freedom. This is an uneven collection which soars sometimes to a throat-aching height, and at times seems to consist of pedestrian prose broken into lines, or notes for poems.


Trainer, Yvonne, “Everything Happens at Once,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35105.