canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

Early Evening Pieces
by Marianne Bluger
Buschekbooks, 2003

Reviewed by Jennifer Dales

At its best, Haiku gives the reader unique insights into everyday situations. The best Haiku poems in Marianne Bluger's new collection compress complex observations into a few perfectly chosen words. These Haiku combine Bluger's lyrical gifts of strong, musical language and unique, personal insight with a concentrated and disciplined form.

The poems in this collection range over a broad spectrum of topics; from the poet’s reflections on people and places to nature.

Her poem "Remembrance Day" is an example of Bluger’s best work. The poem offers the reader a rich understanding of the experience of war veterans.

bagpipes wheeze
through the cenotaph mist
a thin line of vets

In this short poem, the evokes the November mist as a memorial for the dead. The mist represents the spirits of the dead and evokes a sense of eternity. The also uses the sound of bagpipes to bring sound to the poem and to reinforce the theme of loss. She also uses a reference to bagpipes as a historical connection, and draws the reader in to the time period when Canadian men were sent off to war to the sound of a marching band. The "thin line of vets" is like a trickle of water on a rainy November street—insignificant against wet pavement. The thinness of this line of old veterans emphasizes their vulnerability in the face of time: they are few, and fading. The idea of thinness also suggests the frailness of people who nonetheless survived the overwhelming wars of the past century.

Besides Haiku that reflect on the human world, Bluger has many that meditate on nature, of which she is evidently passionate. Many of these poems tend to capture a picture—a photograph of words. There are some, however, that go beyond this and perceive nature as a living entity that is connected to all of creation.

one little breeze
and the sagebrush starts
whispering to the stars

The word "whispering" transforms this Haiku from a snapshot of a moment in time into a vision of the prairie as being alive and a part of an interconnected universe. It suggests a relationship, a conversation, between the earth and the heavens, opening the door to a spiritual realm.

Bluger's long experience as a poet is evident in the vivid compelling images she creates, and the quirky, gentle voice she has developed. Traditionally, Japanese Haiku require that each poem contain a kigo or "season word" that tells the reader in which season the Haiku is set. Most of Marianne Bluger's Haiku contain kigo, perhaps because of her obvious love for nature. Her vivid, earthy, sensual imagery provide a rich treasure trove of season words:

gleam on the last
copper chrysanthemum
tulip buds tight
a robin in the rain
stretches a worm

These two poems are good examples of how Bluger can open a window onto the natural world and allow the reader to view it from within the writer's perspective.

Jennifer Dales is a writer living in Ottawa.







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ISSN 1494-6114. 


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