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This review is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

PIONEER SPIRIT 31 Newfoundland Poets, edited by Adrian Fowler and Al Pittman (Breakwater)
Al Pittman, Once when I was drowning (Breakwater)
Anne Szumigalski, Doctrine of Signatures (Fifth House, Saskatchewan)

Newfoundland, cut off from the Canadian mainland and facing farthest and harshest into the Atlantic, has given Canadian poetry a major poet in E. J. Pratt and has developed a clear regional character that can be discovered in even the most different poets. That sense of distance and also of penetration which we associate with so much Canadian writing is largely absent, as is much of the mellowness of other Maritime areas (though Al Pittman hankers after this in his New Brunswick poem 'Celebration', with its orchards and fields). Instead we have a recurring vocabulary of sea and ocean, rock and surf, roughness and stern sense. A pioneer spirit survives even today - and small wonder, on an island scarcely inclined to accommodate man.

Fowler and Pittman have put together a fine anthology, which allows this regional character full and flexible expression while at the same time giving play to individual strengths in the chosen poets. Eight writers are given a larger share of space. Michael Cook, born in London in 1933 and well-known as a dramatist (The head, guts and sound bone dance), is represented with extracts from his verse drama On the Rim of the Curve, which deals with the end of the Beothuck Indians - mythic material on Newfoundland. Tom Dawe, also fascinated by the Beothucks, writes beautifully of the island's natural life:


clean surf on the angel rocks
and sea-birds calling
from the silver folds of landwash ...


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