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This review is taken from PN Review 190, Volume 36 Number 2, November - December 2009.

RETRIEVERS JAMES LANGER, Gun Dogs (House of Anansi Press) $18.95 Cdn

KAREN SOLIE, Pigeon (House of Anansi Press) $18.95 Cdn
PATRICK WARNER, Mole (House of Anansi Press) $18.95 Cdn

Toronto’s House of Anansi Press has been publishing poetry since its foundation in 1967, becoming over the years one of the leading poetry publishers in Canada. Few of its books, however, have had any lasting impact outside of the country. With the purchase of the company by businessman and philanthropist Scott Griffin in 2002 - namesake of the Griffin Poetry Prize, a connection both the publisher and owner are eager to note does not affect the Griffin finalists’ list - there has been an expansion of its poetry line: Canadian editions of books by Simon Armitage and Robin Robertson, and a bigger international push for Anansi poets. No surprise, then, that these three animal-titled books - the 2009 list - have made their way across the ocean where earlier publications have floundered.

Atlantic Canadian poet James Langer’s debut is a conglomerate of iambs and free verse. The title poem, ‘Gun Dogs’, is an odd choice to focus the collection around, considering that the metaphor for wild, violent unleashing that the poem sketches isn’t as central to the book as metaphors for sharpening, cleaving and scything - suggestive of a more definitive ideal for the poems here: the trimmed tautness of Langer’s lines, the sense of direction, smoothness and purpose. Yet despite his keen sense, there is little syntactical variety in the poems, which are humourless affairs for the most part, giving an overall samey feel to the collection. Typical of this is ‘The Scythe’:

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