Page collection pays tribute to poets
Reviewed by E. Russell Smith (Ottawa Citizen (Sunday, October 2, 1994))
A glosa, originally a Spanish form, is a poem expanding on a theme presented in an opening stanza. Each subsequent stanza includes one line from the original.
In Hologram, P.K. Page has “glossed” quatrains chosen from the works of others, imposing upon her verses certain formal limitations of length and rhyme. The result is a book of 14 highly disciplined poems which function as a guide and a homage to a diverse selection of poets, from Sappho to Seferis.
In her introductory essay, Page discusses briefly the concept of her affinity with, as opposed to the influence of, earlier poets. “It is not until we have heard many other songs that we are able to put together our own specific song.”
She was unable to include all “whose work I fell in love with during my formative years” because of the constraints she had assumed. Technically, the lines of the quatrain had not to be enjambed. More importantly, and more indefinably, they had to resonate with her own natural frequency and empathy.
This requirement is nowhere more evident than in Page’s “marriage” (her words) with Dylan Thomas, in “Love’s Pavilion.” Thomas’s lines are from “And Death Shall Have No Dominion,” itself a gloss on Romans 6:9. Page creates a triumphant statement of accord, and joy, and her sustaining faith in love:
Engrave it in stone. Carve it in rock.
This is the sub-text of all art,
the wind in the wings of Paraclete.
She clarifies and intensifies the thought without presumptuous ornamentation. To experience her poem is to believe that “death shall have no dominion.”
It is not always evident that the glosa enlarges the parent text, until the epigraphic quatrain is read again, and it serves to focus the richness of Page’s lines. The “enlargement” may be an illustration, and elaboration, a tangent or even an apparent irrelevance.
It is of no great importance, for example, to have read “Burnt Norton,” to be captivated by the elegant splendor of Page’s “Presences.” And yet her poem clearly springs from a meditation on the four lines she quotes from Eliot’s poem. Page transports us from Eliot’s timeless Gloucestershire to the court of Akhenaten and Nefertiti. […]
Page’s concern for the environment is evident in “Planet Earth” and “The Answer,” based on lines from Pablo Neruda and Robert Graves respectively. The latter poem evolves into a passionate statement of the object of her long life: “… only for love, the love that is so focused on its object that I die utterly, a candle in the sun…”
“Exile” dilates upon the theme of aging, in company with her colleague, George Woodcock, who provided the quatrain (from “Imagine the South”). P.K. Page’s readers may still rejoice with her that however memories may blur, each today “is bright as a name brand.”
Hologram is more than a new collection; it is a summation, and a jewel in the crown.