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This review is taken from PN Review 68, Volume 15 Number 6, July - August 1989.

FROM THE LAND OF ONLY WHAT IS Phyllis Webb, Water and Light (Coach House Press, Toronto)
Anne Marriott, Letters from some Islands (Mosaic Press) [Mosaic Press titles distributed in Britain by John Calder Ltd]
R.A.D. Ford, Doors, Words and Silence (Mosaic Press)
Maria Jacobs, What Feathers are for (Mosaic Press)
Cyril Dabydeen, Islands Lovelier than a Vision (Peepal Tree Press, 53 Grove Farm Crescent, Leeds LS16 6BZ) £3.95 pb
Diana Hartog, Candy from Strangers (Coach House Press)
Bruce Whiteman, The Invisible World is in Decline (Coach House Press)
Anne Michaels, The Weight of Oranges (Coach House Press)

Phyllis Webb, now turned sixty and equally in command of her spirit and her idiom, is certainly one of the half dozen finest poets writing in Canada, and Water and Light is a delight. The book is subtitled "Ghazals and Anti Ghazals" and takes its place in a ghazal revival that has been going on in North America, quietly and steadily and to my mind not very explicably, for a couple of decades. Originally the ghazal was a form of the Near East and central Asia, particularly cultivated in Persian and Urdu and brought to perfection by Hafiz in the fourteenth century. It is written in couplets (originally five, now anything up to twelve) and once was a poem of wine and love (though now anything goes). German Romanticism saw the last major wave of ghazal imitation in the West. In the last twenty years, writers as different as Adrienne Rich and Jim Harrison, W.S. Merwin and John Thompson, have written ghazals. Thompson, who died in 1976 at the age of thirty-eight, produced in Stilt Jack one of the most exciting books (now something of a rarity) by a contemporary Canadian poet, a collection which suggested he had the makings of a Canadian Baxter, and Stilt Jack (along with Michael Ondaatje and the Ghalib translations of Rich and Merwin) is the most apparent influence on Water and Light. Webb's are poems "from the land of / only what is"; but, as in Thompson (and consistently in the spirit of ...


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