Review of The Martha Landscapes
From Sheila Martindale , Canadian Author & Bookman (Spring 1985)

The Martha Landscapes by Colleen Thibaudeau



Brick Books, 75 pages, $7.50 (paper), ISBN 0-919626-24-6

I am fortunate to live in the same city as Colleen Thibaudeau, and have attended many of her readings. Her zany presentation and slightly dotty personality, combined with the fact that she always involves her audience in the reading, give these events a circus-like atmosphere. Over the years I suppose I have heard just about all the poems in The Martha Landscapes, and they seem like old friends to me.

But suppose I were coming cold to her work. Supposing all I had were the printed words on the page? Would I get as much from them? I have to admit the answer is probably not. While I have roared with laughter over Throgmogle & Engestchin when read by Colleen and her husband, James Reaney, I think I would be somewhat baffled to come upon a couple of pages which read in this vein: Throgmogle  Fordful/manty overgoo/ bog manty gong goppling/ rill cum nack throggins… And I am fairly “au courant” with the current poetry scene in Canada –imagine anyone tackling this who had not read a poem since Wordsworth!

However, the everyday is also present in Thibaudeau’s work. She gives us some interesting juxtapositions and stunning imagery. We read of nephews who have gone to the Tar Sands: One slept in his truck all winter/ 40 below and no postal code; and of the author’s intention to clean up bureau drawers spilling their dry Niagaras. It helps to know something of Canadian literature to appreciate the parodies that are also weirdly tied in with helpful hints from the Toronto Star. Her historical notes are well done, from the Tin Shop during the Depression, to her grandmother’s shell-shaped sugar spoon. Perhaps the most cogent piece in the book is “A Page of Rage,” in which Susan (her daughter?) comes home furious about an incident with an objectionable guy at a bus stop that releases all her childhood traumas.

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