Poets Who Don't Dance


27 pages
ISBN 0-920976-28-X




Reviewed by Sheila Martindale

Sheila Martindale is poetry editor of Canadian Author and Bookman and
author of No Greater Love, her sixth collection of poetry.


In this collection Shaunt Basmajian continues with several of the themes begun in Surplus Waste & Other Poems. Like some latter-day prophet, his voice cries out in the urban wilderness; and we cannot help but listen and be moved. He talks about the Middle East, about nuclear arsenals, about massacres and political corruption. And while his tone is generally pessimistic about the state of the world, he is no doomsayer and his observations are by no means didactic. The conclusion he draws is that an individual can’t do much about it anyway and “still relies on his / favourite bottle / or case of beer / as the only alternative / and means of escape / from it all.”

The book also contains more of Basmajian’s downtown (and in some case down-and-out) poems. These deal with alienation and anonymity; with falling in love as an antidote to loneliness; with unemployment and the struggle to survive. The astonishing thing is that his work does not lapse into the maudlin and the depressing. There is an objectivity and a resignation here that states facts without ranting, that recognizes emotion without being emotional. Perhaps the most memorable of many cogent lines in this slim volume are: “... we’re the ones... watching the next generation / chase the dream / we thought / only belonged to us.”

Unfinished Monument is to be applauded for excellence not only of content, but also of production.


Basmajian, Shaunt, “Poets Who Don't Dance,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 12, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35886.