The Better Part of Heaven: Pacific Writings


135 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88910-273-2






Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan

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


Ken Norris, a British Columbia poet, took a journey from the routine of Canadian living and went to the South Seas. In the Pacific, he discovered a new culture and a way of life that illustrated vast contrasts to the norm with which he was familiar. The Better Part of Heaven was produced from notes kept during his travels and reflections upon his return.

The Better Part of Heaven is really one long odyssey in which the poet quests or discovers life. The poems are a series of “unfathomable dreams” on which the experience of discovery is constructed. Only when he leaves the Pacific to return to North American life patterns does he gain “the ties that bind.” Through the dream-journey, the reality of home and its true depth is found.

Norris’s poems accent dream and fantasy to a fine degree. Although he is captivated by all “the primitive beauty” he leaves behind in the South Seas, he returns “home to the realization of the heart.” Many of his utterance are letters to home, which show how one longs for the familiar in faraway, undiscovered peoples. Beneath the sharp images and the pregnant metaphors, there is a love that endures and accepts the “better part of heaven.”

For Norris, “the sun arrives when it’s really needed” and its warmth and strength aid all “forms of desire.” His poems do likewise. Contrasts, vivid descriptions, and ultimate experiences depict love, life, and dream-reality. The Better Part of Heaven is a poet arriving at terms with himself and language.


Norris, Ken, “The Better Part of Heaven: Pacific Writings,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,