Expecting Rain: New Poems


79 pages
ISBN 0-88982-074-0





Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan

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


When Stephen Scobie writes a poem, it is a sign to which he ascribes some pattern or experience. Scobie, who was born in Scotland in 1943, has been in Canada since 1965, but much of his poetic expression takes him to places well beyond this country. His new poems, Expecting Rain, feature travels in Scotland, London, and France as well as at home. This poet, critic, short story writer, journalist, and publisher now teaches at the University of Victoria.

Signs dominate Scobie’s images. From the broken-down typewriter (“writing will always fail”) to a return to Scotland (“the country of familiar signs”), “it is / if not a sign at least an omen.” Each utterance spells a particular experience whose symbolic interpretation is “another broken sign,” “a hollow sign,” “all signs are closed,” or “back to the original sign.” If this seems paradoxical or negative, it is the focus of the poet to cast provocative images.

What Scobie does well is blend images with experience. The last section of the book is a poetic journal that is really a diary for May 1983. In it, as the poet travels, his voice echoes each day through a specific happening that points to sign or symbol.

The title poem, “Expecting Rain,” is a powerful reflection: life’s “muffled drum / and dreams / take us back through the years.” It is indeed a theme poem or central piece.

Expecting Rain is another important volume of verse from Scobie, a dominant Canadian literary figure. Like the art he celebrates in many of these poems, his work is a sign which, “connected, sings.”


Scobie, Stephen, “Expecting Rain: New Poems,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35965.