Mia Anderson, Appetite, 1988
Frances Itani, A Season of Mourning, 1988
Tim Lilburn and Susan Shantz, From the Great Above She Opened Her Ear to the Great Below, 1988
Each of these books is a pleasure to look at, each in its own way. In all three, the visual presentation fits the written text to a nicety. (The name of Brick Books somewhat belies the elegance of the objects produced under that sign. No scrimping or carelessness here. The production of From the Great Above is nothing short of lavish.)
Each in its own way is a mixed-media assemblage. Extending from several literatures into the worlds of music, theatre, television, advertising, cinema, and painting, the range of allusion in Anderson’s Appetite is generous, grand. In From the Great Above, the grace of Shantz’s seven panels, cowrie shells, metal, and leather, counterpoints the ostensible brassiness of Lilburn’s lucubrations. And the greying of Molly Lamb Boback’s “Blue Flags,” “Cosmos,” and “Poppies” in A Season of Mourning figures the process of Itani’s self-reflection.
Each in its own way bespeaks a craving: for substantial nourishment in Anderson’s, for dignity in Itani’s, for order in Lilburn/Shantz’s.
And each in its own way compelled this reviewer to reticence.
I am reluctant to comment on Appetite for fear of saying too little. Rich and full as they are, the eighty pages of this work call for a book-length response. Mich could be said, for example of Anderson’s sense of composition and composure relative to Dylan Thomas’; of the spirit of high and sometimes fierce merriment which moves the world she lives in and impels her craft; of that acuteness of sight and hearing which enlivens the understanding and invites communion in each of her poems; of the patience and humility which inform her ironic reading of contemporary pollutions; and of the idea, old and ever new, which rules the whole of her book, of love as an inclination inherent in every being which causes the appetite to seek a good fitting for its nature. “What fits, suits,” in the words of Anderson’s “Have I Told You How Lovely.” Like the Creation it embraces, Appetite is lovely, a hearty book made for delectation. Cordon bleu…