Sparling Mills was a freelance reviewer living in Herring Cove, N.S.
Unfortunately, the title poem, “Dream Cities,” is very poor. Furthermore, since it is the last poem in the book, and a longish one at that, it leaves the reader with a bad impression of the whole publication.
The poem itself is in three parts: I City of Stone; II City of Water; III City of Glass. Part I has 31 lines and uses the word “stone” 23 times! Enough to make one dizzy. Part II describes Venice, all in one big chunk. Although this is the best of the three parts, its form suggests mud rather than “six-sided” rain. And Part III is a complete loss except for the line “glass birds sing glass songs.” Otherwise, it is made up of nonsensical chatter.
I do not enjoy being so negative; and I must not give the impression that there is nothing creditable in the book. Hunting can present details in original phrases. She speaks of “the brightness of the marmalade,” her thermometer as “my silvery icicle,” and eyes “like dark plums, / they do not reflect.” Moreover, in “Subsistence Level,” when she states “If you die, / I have no shovel,” she successfully shocks us into emotion and participation. Yet, instead of ending the poem there, she continues for 28 more lines. Some of these lines contain passable images, but one feels it is all more of the same.
At the beginning of the book there is a Note:
‘To a Patron’ is taken from the Letters of Aubrey Beardsley; ‘Emergent Occasions’ is taken from the Journals of Mary Shelley; ‘Ornithological’ is taken from the Observer’s Book of Cornish Birds.
The three poems mentioned are by far the best ones, and are worth reading. It seems Hunting has a flair for research — perhaps the distancing required helps her to choose the exact form a poem should take.