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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

CALL THEM CANADIANS Miriam Waddington: Collected Poems (Oxford University Press) £15.00
Clifton Whiten: One Poem: Poems Selected and New (Mosaic Press, distributed in Britain by John Calder Ltd.)
Victor Coleman: Corrections (Coach House Press, Toronto)
Bill Griffiths: A Tract against the Giants (Coach House Press)

There are nearly five hundred poems in Miriam Waddington's 400-page collected volume, and coming to terms with them is a long business that is not always as engaging as it might be. Her social work in early adult life produced lifeless and obliquely condescending sketches of 'slums in odd corners of cities' and 'old women grey as sponges', sketches which rightly brought Waddington the accusation of glibness. She responds to Nature and to being sent roses from Moscow, but there is little thought in her work, few characters or tales, surprisingly little of the Russian Jewish background of her family, and too much routine feminism in the later poems. The few critics she has attracted seem indecently eager to find a formula (she thinks by feeling, she is a poet of lost happiness and joyful affirm- ation, she is strongest when least personal, she writes 'for the connoisseurs of life, not for the voyeurs'); but they avoid examining individual poems at any length, uneasily aware (I expect) that even her dozen truly fine poems are flawed, and I have not managed to find a serious discussion of her most interesting technical challenge, her concept of the line and the line-break.

The first two collections, Green World (1945) and The Second Silence (1955), now seem stiffly rhetorical, and the often-anthologized title poem of the third, The Season's Lovers (1958), seems mannered in its adoption of Donne and has a curiously dried-out Movement texture; but in the fourth book, ...


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