A review of
by W. H. New
Oolichan Books (2011)
In W. H. New’s tenth book of poetry he investigates his hometown, Vancouver. The collection won the Vancouver book award in 2012 and is a nostalgic and moody view of his feeling about home and time’s effect on the place. Many of the poems begin with narrator as child observing the world around him. Vancouver locales are plentiful and specific. This observance comes from “Grade” (31).
At six I thought if I climbed into the cab of
Old Engine 374 I could see the whole world.
and I could: Kits Beach up close, the Sleeping
Beauty further off: in my head I was already
through the next range and the one after,
out of the spiral tunnel, over the top,
free pass to beyond –
New often navigates out of this voice and into the one of mature narrator enveloped in remembrance and wonder. Here we find narrator musing on the essential question, “what have I stopped noticing?” (51). The poems competently fold time and reminiscence together to create portraits of time and place, sometimes too specifically to be inclusive of everyman. Yet, there is a sense that these things matter to New, that his memory is important.
I am caught in a tangle,
fishnets of caution, repetition:
where has the moment gone, single
vermilion cheek and child hurrah –
and then –
dropped in fogbank,
murmured into approximation,
willow play and grey signs – (51)
W. H. New is a retired professor of Canadian Literature and lives in Vancouver.
This review appears in FreeFall Volume XXIII Number 2 Spring / Summer 2013