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Review of A Possible Landscape
From Sandra Nicholls , Books in Canada (May 1994)

Surfaces and Shadows

The publisher’s blurb describes Maureen Harris’s first book A Possible Landscape as playful, and while Cinderella and Frog Prince stories are playfully reinvented for sceptical ears, there is also a darker, more evocative seam. Whether she assumes the character of Persephone or Eve or Alice, the narrator’s thematic preoccupation remains the same. Through forests, into tunnels, or down wells, her women ache for the descent, in which they “encounter what is lost, what is gathering itself / beneath winter’s snow, to be born,” so that “past this unease and stepping through a curtain / I find meadow grass, a heap of words, shimmering.” For in the surface world, each narrator struggles blind: “At any moment I can’t see it anymore. / A hand gropes (for the wall).” The desire is not to re-emerge from this lost landscape but to remain, “undisturbed.”

The intriguing relationship with the Jungian underwor(l)d is the most strikingly original aspect of the book. “Never fall in love with a snake; / he’ll soon tire of your wearing / the same skin day-out, day-in,” Harris warns. Like the snake, Harris tries on the skins of women of fairy tales and mythology, yet one believes she would shed them all if she could find that place where words are not tight-fitting, but the liberation she seeks. “I’m still waiting for / the word that will unleash me.” So, unleashed, I look forward to the next book by this lyrical and provocative poet…

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