No Birds or Flowers


62 pages
ISBN 0-920428-47-9





Reviewed by Sparling Mills

Sparling Mills was a freelance reviewer living in Herring Cove, N.S.


The cover of No Birds or Flowers by Diane Keating is rather misleading: two seashells are pictured, but there is no seashell imagery in the book. After reading the poems, one feels a wolf or a basket of apples, a broken mirror or maybe the moon would have been more relevant. Yet the shells are striking, as is the picture of the poet on the back. Keating looks like a beautiful Lady MacBeth, hood and all.

Inside, the poems are divided into three parts. Part I is disturbingly vivid. For example, the poet has a dream of pressing needles into the eyes of wild canaries; and in “Wolfskin” she wants to slice the wolf from “bowel to ear” and climb into its skin. Then she could “leap on the wind /  and howl.” This idea of her body becoming something else is repeated often: her body becomes a cocoon, a lizard, and a castle. In the poem “Castle,” the metaphor develops from her watching “the throw of dice / and thrusting swords” to her prowling “through passages / night and day.”

Another important poem in Part I is “In Dark Places.” Keating informs us that as a poet she gathers “bright stolen baubles” from everywhere to use in her poems. Triumphant, she declares “I know my bones sing / and in the hollows / poems are eggs of winged / creatures, never seen.”

This confidence, however, does not result in a totally successful book. Part II presents only one strong poem, “Fecundity.” It is a “victim” poem: “I ache for your bite, / to have water, fire, / sucked from me.” And Part III is weak indeed, with only occasional flashes of life. The best two lines are “I’ll love you till / a peacock flies up your nose.” Not very profound, but by the end of this book the reader yearns for a bit of humour.


Keating, Diane, “No Birds or Flowers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,