With Averted Vision


48 pages
ISBN 0-9685339-5-7
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by Susan McKnight

Susan McKnight is an administrator of the Courts Technology Integrated Justice Project at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.


With Averted Vision is a celebration of the life of Soul. In order to
understand this theme, it is important to read Hannah Main-van der
Kamp’s dedication to her mother, which includes an excerpt from an old
Dutch prayer—“Yet grant that our soul not cling to this passing
life.” Soul is the main character in almost every poem in this
collection, although occasionally spirit or body attempts to claim
centre stage. Each poem describes Soul in some situation taken from
everyday life, from eating an orange to wishing for a tropical vacation;
however, Soul approaches each of these situations with a sense of
freedom and a sense of humor that we seldom seem to allow ourselves.

As in Main-van der Kamp’s previous poetry, the wildlife, flora,
seasons, and even individual weather phenomena are imbued with
personality and purpose or occasionally with a reckless sense of
trickery. The interaction between Soul and these other entities gently
unfolds a beautiful, life-affirming philosophy full of hope and love.
Occasionally, the poet’s playful side is evident, as in the poem
“What Soles Want,” which is about just that—shoe soles, each
endowed with a different personality: “Sensible footwear registers at
clergy conventions. / Gnostic soles do their own barefoot thing.”
There are also moments of pathos, as when Soul visits a military
graveyard in “Soul Picks Up the Weeping of Those Who Have Not Wept”:
“Soul rises up with geese and wails. / Under her, cut oats shiver dry
bells.” The end of the world is described in “Oh My Soul, Why Art
Thou Grieving?” in a bittersweet, quiet manner that recalls the prayer
quoted in the dedication. On the whole, this collection is a beautiful
tribute to the soul that resides in each one of us, whether or not we
are aware of its existence.


Main-van der Kamp, Hannah., “With Averted Vision,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/7479.