Review of Adult Language Warning
From Robert Lincoln , Canadian Materials, January, 1992

Adult Language Warning by William Robertson

London (Ont.), Brick Books, 1991 76pp, paper, $9.95, ISBN 0919626-52-1. CIP

            The title of William Robertson’s second book of poetry is deliberately provocative.  There are some coarse words here and there, but the title carries a second meaning.  The book is a reflective collection of poems whose subjects bridge the line between the adult and the younger person.  Robertson does not want to hide his feelings from his children or the reader; he wants to explore and share them.  There is often an interplay between the knowledge learned in one’s youth and that encountered later.

            There are poems that discuss sex, but it is cerebral and wistful rather than graphic.  In the poem “This is a Night for Love” Robertson successfully turns the focus from a group of partying adolescents to an older couple across the street, who, ironically, may be engaging in what the teenagers can only hope to do.

            The section of poems entitled “Gamblers” gives insight into Robertson’s style and beliefs.  A group of poems is returned by mail because they aren’t personal enough.  The poet realizes they aren’t filled with graphic details.  Robertson reacts to this with humour and grace:

            …not enough
            blood, piss, and balls…
            How to open parts
            of my life
            kept closed for so long

And then he drops an aside:

            write about
            my wife’s thighs, she’ll say why
            do you think I wear clothes?

            There are poems that evoke images of Repulse Bay, the Yukon, California and Japan.  At other times Robertson enters the world of a seventh-grader in “One of the Laws of Love.”  Robertson is also concerned with the process of poetry and language, and how individuals communicate.  His experiences in Japan have perhaps contributed to his understated style and his penchant for detached commentary.

            Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up   

Robert Lincoln, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Man. 

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