God's Geography by Don Gutteridge
Reviewed by Michael O. Nowlan (Canadian Book Review Annual 1983)
Don Gutteridge, who has established himself as an authentic voice for Canadian literature, has produced an unusual text in God’s Geography. It may be classified as a book of poetry, which it is; but it goes far beyond that dimension. It is really an album (“I make this album / instead of poems”) of memories. The focal centre is Point Edward, Ontario, where the poet grew up.
The text, which is the fourth in a series entitled Time Is the Metaphor, is composed of poems, old and contemporary photographs, newspaper collages, and tape recorded interviews with residents of Point Edward. The whole collection is arranged to illustrate time through relatives, residents, and news — but, more particularly, through the poet’s eye. God’s Geography is journey. Primarily, journey is physical because “space is the / breadth of my walking.” The spiritual, however, is endless with “no shorelines / horizons / these circles release / and renew.” The strength and vision are fulfilled through the latter. For the poetic voice, youth was a searching of “the four / corners of our village / but never found them.” It is only in maturity that “all the years” are “bridged with words.” These brief passages show the depth of Gutteridge’s thought.
God’s Geography is a stirring piece of work that provokes memory. It is the kind of word-experience one would obtain by translating the family album into verse. There is much here for many readings. Like his memories, Gutteridge’s work strengthens with Time.