One Night


46 pages
ISBN 0-88753-135-0






Reviewed by Michael Williamson

Michael Williamson was Reference Librarian at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.


Ken Norris’s new collection is a sequence of 38 lyric poems about the consummation of a casual love affair. Mr. Norris attempts to redeem this universal but decidedly shop-worn theme by shifting the focus of the narrative from the personal (the poet sleeping with his sycophantic poetry groupie) to the literary (namely, the relationship of poet to reader). The shift occurs satirically and oh so wittily:

And from the outlook of reality — the air-
room where I sit writing this, and
wherever you are now,
reading this — it isn’t taking place at all.

By the time the reader realizes that Mr. Norris is just teasing us with his obnoxious and self-gratifying voyeurism, it is too late and the joke does not work. Which is the point, of course: the joke is designed to irritate the reader, throw us off balance, wonder if Mr. Norris is chronicling a friendly but passionate fling or seriously exploring the relationship of poet/artist to his or her audience. It’s all too cute and too self-conscious to work and Mr. Norris even knows that, but goes ahead and does it and writes about it anyway. Another case of a Canadian poet publishing too much instead of waiting for inspiration and craft to coalesce into something memorable for the reader. Mr. Norris’s opinion of his book is as follows: “From the point of view of the volumes of literary criticism on the bookshelves, this is ‘just a disgrace.’” And from just about all other points of view, too.


Norris, Ken, “One Night,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,