Candles in My Head


82 pages
ISBN 1-896860-83-4
DDC C811'.54





Olga Costopoulos teaches English at the University of Alberta.


This is the first collection of poems by Gillian Harding-Russell. It
deals mostly with the vicissitudes of daily life, and is best described
as visceral. The poet manages to connect bodily experience to the
objective world with some highly original metaphors. The intelligence
behind these poems is at once observant and receptive to all nuances of
pain and joy, and whatever comes between them.

One of the many virtues of the book is its excellent organization. The
poems are arranged in an order reminiscent of a sonnet sequence. And by
the end of the near-narrative, we come to feel a sense of community with
this poet. The poems are personal without ever falling into
self-indulgence. One image in her poem “Whales and Puddles, Motes and
Molecules” is especially memorable: “the faded lady bent over
needles / she can no longer easily thread, / sewing anyway, a blind
Penelope / waiting for her husband, who sometimes / knows her.” It
seems to sum up perfectly the 70-year marriage of her
great-grandparents. By the end of the collection, we feel as if we have
made a new, yet old, acquaintance: a sensitive, thoughtful friend.


Harding-Russell, Gillian., “Candles in My Head,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,