A Pair of Baby Lambs







Reviewed by Mark Bastien

Mark Bastien was a Toronto-based journalist.


This tiny book (5 1/4” by 5 1/4”) by David McFadden contains two long poems: “The Cow That Swam Lake Ontario” and “Stormy January.” The former was first performed in 1982 in Nelson, British Columbia, with musical accompaniment by a band called Hawaiian Howard and the Indoor Plants. It is an amusing trifle about a cow that escapes slaughter by jumping off the ramp leading to an abattoir and then swims across Lake Ontario to her home pasture and bovine friends. The author, fishing in a rented motorboat, follows the cow home. The journey to survival he documents is witty, bizarre, and oddly touching. He testifies that “following that cow across that lake was the most poetic experience of my life and I just had to write a poem about it.” He concedes later, however, that perhaps “at some later date I’ll find her lying on my supper plate.”

“Stormy January” is a poem in seven sections about the native Canadian painter Norval Morrisseau and the influence of the Spanish painter, Pablo Picasso. The author examines, with varying degrees of success and clarity, spiritualism, politics, and the nature of the artist. To this end he employs Jung, popular films, exotic locales, and a pair of baby lambs at the centre of the universe. The author concludes that “only life in the twentieth century /can bring you true peace of mind.” This poem contains some fascinating passages, but I cannot say that I fully grasped what the author was getting at.

A Pair of Baby Lambs is the first book from a new Toronto publisher, The Front Press. The quality of the product and of the author is a good start for the company.


McFadden, David, “A Pair of Baby Lambs,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37278.