Coming to Canada


91 pages
ISBN 0-88629-187-9
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


This book was first published in 1992 and is reprinted here in what the
publishers call “a newly designed edition,” presumably to exploit
the interest created in the author by the publication of her
award-winning novel The Stone Diaries in 1993. It consists of selections
from two modest books of poetry from the 1970s, the sequence that gives
the book its title (an interesting poem, but one that will disappoint
nationalist readers since the actual “coming” takes place only after
the last poem in the series), and a selection of more recent poems. The
book contains a thoughtful, helpful introduction by the poet Christopher

As a poet herself, Carol Shields is modest, unassuming, quietly
competent. Her subjects are for the most part drawn from personal
experience or interpretive of suburban domestic life. This material is
presented with a subtle combination of distanced irony and genuine
affection. Her subjects are simple and are treated elegantly and
succinctly, as in “Uncle”: “When he speaks / it is with the
privileged / angular paragraphs / of old essays, / his phrases antique /
and shapely as jewelry.” This is an unostentatious verse that avoids
the grand statement but can often startle with sharp insight. It is not,
I think, as important as her fiction, but does share some of the
latter’s compassionate, human qualities. A collection worth


Shields, Carol., “Coming to Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 15, 2024,