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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Alden Nowlan: Selected Poems

Reviewed: June 10, 2007
By: edited and with an introduction by Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier
Publisher: Anansi Press
173 pages, $19.95

Greg Cook’s splendid biography sent me to this book and has had me dipping into periodically ever since. Many of the poems Cook quoted in his book can be found here, though this slim volume is certainly no more than a sampling of Nowlan’s prodigious output.

I read poetry quite slowly. Though the modern idiom is generally short, much of it needs careful digestion, containing ideas or images that require a second or third look to appreciate fully.

Nowlan captures something of this in the following poem. Shakespeare said the same thing in in Sonnet 18, but Nowlan’s version of the idea is more about the poem and less about its subject.

An Exchange of Gifts

As long as you read this poem

I will be writing it.

I am writing it here and now

before your eyes,

although you can’t see me.

Perhaps you’ll dismiss this

as a verbal trick,

the joke is that you’re wrong;

the real trick is your pretending

this is something

fixed and solid,

external to us both.

I tell you better:

I will keep on

writing this poem for you

even after I’m dead.

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