Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A review of An Open Door in the Landscape

In Elisabeth Harvor’s An Open Door in the Landscape, the poems “open” on moments of narrative and lyrical intensity and humour. The collection is divided into sections without titles to focus theme and category, leaving the reader to ascertain the order and balance among poems. Rather than strictly by chronology or subject matter, the poems or clusters of poems are arranged according to some more subtle choreography of image and story, with longer narrative pieces interspersed with short lyrical poems. The poems are at once sensitive and honest in the ruthless way of adolescence, but often with the ironic perspective of hindsight and maturity that adds something funny or at least satisfying...

For a poetry collection that begins with adolescent ardour and romanticism, it ends on just the right note of self-irony. In “For: Dear Companion in Night Sorrow,” the speaker commiserates with a fellow sufferer in a neighbouring room left lighted all night, only to find out later that the occupant was in fact out of town, and so the speaker’s sympathy was misspent. Nevertheless, through the power of the juxtaposition and its effect as a foil, the poem ends on a true romantic note with the speaker in her bed reaching for the letter that has caused her own sorrow and led her in this way to project her pain on a stranger “night companion in sorrow.” This is a strong collection, romantic but never soppy, at times hard but always honest in feeling and sympathy, and sometimes even downright funny.

Read the entire review at The Prairie Fire Review of Books