Lakeshore Poets







Edited by Peter van Toorn
Reviewed by David A. Kent

David A. Kent teaches English at Centennial College and is the editor of
Christian Poetry in Canada.


Part of the pleasure in reading poetry by young writers can be the occasional encounter with felicitous phrasing, sharp perceptions, or precocious conceptions. Moreover, such signs may herald the arrival of a new poetic voice on the literary scene. A sprinkling, rather than any generous dosage, of these signs seems to mark the work of the five poets who are featured in Lakeshore Poets (selected by Peter Van Toorn, a poet in his own right). The slightly defensive preface by Van Toorn which opens this inexpensively produced volume aligns the writers with the “free verse … ‘school’ of poetics,” although too many of the stanza and line irregularities in the collection appear contrived in their conformity to this general principle. After all, as gestural form increasingly attempts to incarnate meaning, so the poem will move steadily toward emblematism, the most rigid of forms. Also, the poems tend to suffer from the confines of predictable, adolescent themes (such as the failure of a love relationship through betrayal) and from the cultivation of tones of either dreamy romanticism or raw violence. Nevertheless, these writers’ discovery of language’s power, of the seductive spell of patterned language (when repetitions are not over-used), and of the primitive exuberance of imaginative association through images is a delight to experience when it does occur. The poetry is at its weakest when, as in Greg Lamontagne’s haiku, poetic insight is mistaken for a poem, or when the writer settles too easily for cliche (“salient features” by Ben Soo) or poeticisms in diction (as in a few of Ruth Taylor’s poems). It is at its strongest when Neil Henden rises above self-consciousness into ironic self-reflection, when Ben Soo captures the rhythms of popular music, or when Taylor manages a marvellous inversion (in the closing lines of “The Rockwind”). Inevitably, though, whether such felicities signal the emergence of authentic poetic voices or not “remains to be seen.”


“Lakeshore Poets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,