Improvising in the Dark


85 pages
ISBN 1-894205-29-4
DDC C811'.6





Reviewed by Laura M. Robinson

Laura M. Robinson is assistant professor of children’s literature at
Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario.


Donna Langevin’s surreal and quirky poems have an Alice in Wonderland
quality. Confusion and bizarre imagery abound, as in “Nightmare,” in
which guests at an elegant wedding reception “pinched and goosed, /
threw lap dogs in the air, / and picked up ropes of kelp / to whip and
trip each other.” Many of the poems are attempts at self-exploration
that, unfortunately, substitute incoherence for subtlety and insight. In
“Facts,” for example, we are told, “Facts without buds leaves or
fragrance facts without wings or sky bare facts a friend’s body on the
autopsy table after the stroke mother’s blood so thin it spurts across
the room I remember a sign for three days the animals can be adopted or
reclaimed facts that aren’t humane fur and antlers hung across a

The section entitled “Shadows for Sale” shows some promise,
however. Inspired by paintings and art, these poems contain moments of
brilliance. A particularly interesting poem, “Self-Portrait,
Masturbating,” delineates the limits of art as the artist attempts to
express himself not through the creation of art but through the act of
masturbation. This intelligent and well-wrought poem, along with other
pieces in this fascinating section, suggests that Langevin just might
have something important to say.


Langevin, Donna., “Improvising in the Dark,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 13, 2024,