Mia Anderson’s Appetite is an adept, frustrating collection of verse. Anderson, on the evidence of this book, is a gifted poet blessed and saddled with a feverish gush of ideas.
That outpouring reaches its zenith in “The Saugeen Sonata,” which won the Malahat Review‘s Long Poem Contest in 1988. In that poem, a full twenty-two pages in length, Anderson adopts the wildly varying persona of Slow Poke to laud the Saugeen River. That praise lakes its most cryptic turn in “The ‘Carrot’ Scherzo,” in which the humble carrot is spiritually and none too seriously granted “musicality” and a bond with the Saugeen. The effect is heady, but ultimately bewildering. Like much of the book, “The Saugeen Sonata” is celebratory — the mood is like a contagion throughout these pages — but some essential lucidity gets sacrificed in the process.
Appetite is dense with delirious energy, absurdist word play (“Affordances”), and sheer love of language. Some poems, like the opening “Advent,” show a Hopkins debt, and the entire volume is unremittingly allusive. I spent half my reading lime scouring the dictionary.
Poems like “Lake Muskoka” and “Northern Lights,” where the final stanzas assume the mesmerizing spell of chants, are brilliant efforts, but the collection itself is guilty of excess. Better, it seems, to pare some of the language and lend some of the lengthier poems definition. The word play here, however, might make some of these poems apt models for creative language exploration.
Doug Watling, Meadowvale Secondary School, Mississauga, Ont.