Other Names for the Heart: New and Selected Poems 1964-1984


137 pages
ISBN 0-920428-76-2






Reviewed by Martin Singleton

Martin Singleton was a poet living in Toronto.


This handsome book contains selections from Wevill’s first four volumes and his uncollected work, in two sections, from 1974 to 1985. Certain themes are constant: the saving grace of love, the presence and evanescence of nature, the sense of isolation, and the need to “only connect.” In his first two books, Birth of a Shark (1964) and A Christ of the Ice-Floes (1966), Wevill shows the influence of his English peers: image and detail predominate. Yet such poems as “Meditation on a Pine-Cone,” with its superb seven linked stanzas, prepare the reader for later work. “Firebreak” (1971) demonstrates a more internal structure. Lines are not automatically capitalized, and they become sparser and more associative. There is increasing awareness of, and fight against, change, decay, and death. In “Where the Arrow Falls” (1974), the poet experiments with the prose poem, and “Breaking Point” is typical of this book’s tough optimism: “those / who must live, cannot live / easily.”

“Villa Blanca” (1974-81) moves more into mystic realms, as Wevill discovers “the ghost of a lyric in a / housefly’s wings.” Several of these poems are among the strongest in this collection. Finally, in “Other Names for the Heart” (1981-85) Wevill comes to see that “love / is practical, of things, a colour, a form / at the edge of what’s possible.” This collection is superb: Wevill deserves to be more widely known, and there is more craft and feeling in the least of these poems than in many whole books of contemporary verse.


Wevill, David, “Other Names for the Heart: New and Selected Poems 1964-1984,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35986.