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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 49, Volume 12 Number 5, May - June 1986.

DARK-WOODY Al Purdy, Being Alive: Poems 1958-78, McClelland and Stewart (Toronto)
David Day, The Animals Within, Penumbra Press (Moonbeam, Ontario), $6.95, Magus Publications (23 Laurier Road, London NW5) £3.50
Roger Nash, Settlement in a School of Whales Fiddlehead Poetry Books (Brynmill Press, The Vicarage, Church Lane, Clarborough, Retford, Notts.), £4.80
Roger Finch, Winter Sunlight, Summer Rain Pierian Press (Brandon University, Manitoba), $1.00 (Canadian)
Roger Finch, What is Written in the Wind Sparrow Press (103 Waldron Street, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906), $2.50 (U.S.)
Mark Frutkin, The Alchemy of Clouds (Carcanet) £4.95
Anne Szumigalski, Risks (rdc press) $6.95 (Canadian)

Should a man's conscience be our touchstone in evaluating his poetry? The old question is pressingly relevant when we read Al Purdy, who on the one hand grieves over nuclear weapons ('The Buddhist Bell', 'Remembering Hiroshima') and poverty ('In the Darkness of Cities'), and on the other hand spends a generous human love on people, places, animals, the dead past, all the minutiae of daily living - yet who expresses his griefs and loves in a language whose claim on us is often raised only through garrulousness or loudness. The tell-it-like-it-is poetry Purdy writes has the obvious virtue of attesting the poet's honesty: Al Purdy's love of Canada, of the combine harvester 'cropping the wide Saskatchewan plain' or a flight of geese 'sweeping to the continental vanishing point', of well-loved locations in Ontario (Roblin Lake, and nearby Ameliasburg, and Belleville) and elsewhere in Canada (Baffin Island, Vancouver, L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, Lake Superior, Prince Edward Island, and so forth), of 'southern counties/with English names', of beavers and cariboo horses, or autumn maples and Arctic rhododendrons - all this richness of love is never in doubt. It is there, palpable on the page, the zest of a man in love with life, with Canada, with women, with poetry, and also with himself. But typically the love and caring in Purdy the man are squandered in the sprawling yawp of Purdy the poet: the love turns out to be only a compendious sentimentality, the caring what Purdy himself calls 'emotional ...

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