Review of A Season of Mourning
From Ian Dempsey , CM: A Canadian Review of Materials - July 1989

A Season of Mourning by Frances Itani

Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up
Reviewed by Ian Dempsey.

Volume 17 Number 4
1989 July

A very slim book of poems about the two most common themes of poetry, death and love. Obviously about death, because the six poems in the first half of the book are elegiac, but less obviously about love, because in the remembering of details of their life together, from a childhood photograph in summer to the sun on her sister’s face for the last time as she is carried to an ambulance, the poet does not mention love.

Still, it is love that makes these simple lines move, because death defeats this poet as it does every poet:

I want to say all of this; I want to say:

Listen Are you listening?
What did we learn?
What did we know?
What was it for?

In the end, there is nothing, really, to say.

The second half of the book continues the same themes in ten poems on a dying friend. There is no conventional hope or miracle offered: a child visiting the sick woman says, “I know she’ll make it. I know she will,” but the poet ends with

You have been robbed. I have
been robbed.
And I can only sit and fold my
hands over what
is left of your fragile skeleton skin.

Students may find that these “easy” poems lie uneasy in their minds.

Ian Dempsey, Cambridge, Ont.

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