canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Island in Winter
by Terence Young
Signal Editions/Vehicule Press, 1999

Review by Michael Bryson

The Island in Winter brings to life Terence Young's tragic, tender voice. The poems are often elegies. The subjects include the narrator's late father, lost relationships, childhood, and simple innocence. These are poems about the process of maturing, the process of coming to terms with life.

From "Grip":

... the winners of this world
are neither the most intelligent
nor the wealthiest
but those who can hang on the longest.

There's a memory I have of my father
in his last days
a man who knew he was slipping
how he took comfort in the Volvo I drove back then
embracing its overbuilt passenger handle
as though it were a stair railing or the steel
stanchion of a sailing ship
strong enough to console a man at the end of his life ...

Young's language is simple and direct. His strongest effects leverage the depth of his honesty, his courage to confront the deeper currents of life. The poems do not reach for pyrotechnics, nor do they attempt the false "realism" of too many over earnest, over gritty would-be Buksowskis. If there is magic in his garden (and there is), it comes from a close examination of life's common dramas.

For example, from "Letters to an Absent Wife":

I've been thinking of taking a lover,
especially now the apples are falling
and the last of our ducks has been carried off.

I can think of nothing else while such lust
surrounds me. ...

They say the earth is spinning
but I believe it's falling.

The speed takes my breath away.

Here, as in many of Young's poems, his narrative strategy is to place the reader in common territory (a love triangle), then to spin off metaphors and observations. The poem reaches from the mundane (fallen apples) to the cosmic (the speed of the universe), knitting together an experience which is both transcendent and grounding.

The poems in this collection both resonate with depth and reach for the stars.







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ISSN 1494-6114. 


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