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Review of Appetite
From Sylvia Markle-Craine , The Ontarion, University of Guelph, September 5, 1989

A rich and saucy mix

Mia Anderson was winner of The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize for 1988. This does not mean she is a novice at her craft. Anderson’s published work has appeared in a number of very prominent poetry books. For her first book of poetry, she has cooked up a batch of tantalizing and palatable poems. Appetite is a collection written by a woman confident in her use of language.

The poems grouped under the titles of I Lake & River, II River, III Lake and IV Land show Anderson’s preoccupation with filling and emptying and a sense of containment unleashed. In “Advent” the poet captures the rock jumping tumult of the river in the cadence of her words that swell and scuttle across the page.

   …New water
   for old, into the pails and the old
   hauls-it up a flight
to hurtle down the waste stones that bank the barn
riverward
   scudding, decrusting,
cataracting rackety corn-skiing
   rivery slop-water, sloop-deck-swabbing
   & sloping & skidding down glaceway stones
scattering klistered shards of spearmint granite ca
ta ka!
   ca ta te!
Frozen Mozart

Whether Anderson is writing about the familiarity of raspberries with ‘their quick burst, percussive on the tongue’ or carrots with their ‘thready cloak[s] of soil’ or the inevitable phallic zucchini, she is acutely aware of Humanity’s insatiable appetite for the Land.

Anderson weaves our cataclysmic heritage into her poems, not as gigantic anti-blasts but with an effective intermingling of the ordinary with cosmic certainty. She speaks of the black holes in “Bulletin from February,” of the trees that give up in “Le Muskoka” because ‘Here,/ soil does.’ In “4 Dozen Lines for Chernobyl” ‘The calibans keep sprouting…’ as ‘He laughs & laughs over the irradiant caesium that lofts out of the/ intoxicant reactor and rains down like maple keys in neat near fits/ over all the open-armed, unlocking DNA.’

If Anderson is interested in the consuming appetite of the world, she is equally interested in the cyclical nature of life, the reclamation of ‘the musk-rose-bodied worms.’ And in one of the most powerful of Anderson’s poems, “Lahar,” the earth, belly-full, swallows ‘newsstands, second-hand cars, a small post office’ and ‘small people’ ‘just eating dinner/ just sitting down, dinner plates/ kibbled to gravel.’

The reader does not feel empty after reading Appetite. Anderson’s table has been laid carefully. She has served a rich and saucy mix to nourish all souls, and a warning to ‘Never trust a view you can’t eat.’

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