New Power

Description

71 pages
$12.95
ISBN 0-921411-94-4
DDC C811'.54

Publisher

Year

1999

Contributor

Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.

Review

The poems in this collection, the author’s first, turn on a brutal
fact: the 1975 murder of her mother, the accomplished B.C. poet Pat
Lowther, at the hands of her father, Roy Lowther. The murder is
foreshadowed in poems, such as “Centre” and “Scars,” that evoke
domestic tensions and Roy’s poisonous need to control. “Seven,”
“Interview,” “The Plan, as Explained by Big Half-Sister,” and
“Instructions” deal with the murder’s chaotic aftermath—for
Christine an aftermath dominated by disastrous stays in foster homes,
experimentation with drugs, and, most insistently, the terrifying shadow
cast by her imprisoned father, “a person / so dreaded / the news of
his death / lifts black weights of tar / from an entire extended family
of shoulders.” “Father,” “What I’ve Come From,” “This
Phoenix Didn’t Rise from Flames,” and “Inheritance” chronicle
the poet’s struggles with her father’s oppressive legacy, while
poems such as “New Power” and “True Love” convey the empowering
effects of the natural world.

A number of poems are marred by clichéd, flat language. In “August
1, 1991 Mayne Island,” the poet reveals she’s “learned that death
is a real, essential part of life.” “I swear to God I will not
procreate / until after I have killed you” is the less-than-subtle
threat addressed to Roy Lowther in “Father,” a poem that invites,
and suffers from, comparison with Sylvia Plath’s searing “Daddy.”
More successful are those poems that are rooted in concrete details; the
book’s most horrifying image appears in “Mother,” in which the
poet offers this speculation about her mother’s waterlogged corpse:
“what was left of your head / must have sharpened the brains / of the
fish who ate you.”

Notwithstanding its intermittent strengths, New Power left this
reviewer wondering if Lowther might not have had more success had she
used the prose memoir rather than poetry to relate her family’s tragic
story.

Citation

Lowther, Christine., “New Power,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8472.