Select one of the keywords
In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry    edited by Kate Braid & Sandy Shreve order for
In Fine Form
by Kate Braid
Order:  USA  Can
Raincoast, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In a Preface to In Fine Form, P.K. Page tells us that this poetry anthology 'shows us what Canadian poets from the sixteenth century to the present day have done with form ... Form is part of our heritage - free verse, an upstart. Not an unwanted or untalented upstart, but a newcomer nonetheless.' The Introduction addresses what form is, and speaks of 'the delicious paradox of form poetry' in that 'constraint can generate freedom'.

The editors tells us that they sought a balance of forms, old and new, represented by both renowned and less known Canadian poems and poets. Each chapter explains a particular form - its origins, structure and features - and addresses both traditional and experimental approaches. The forms included in the anthology are: Ballad, Blues, Couplet, Epigram, Fugue and Madrigal, Ghazal, Glosa, Haiku and other Japanese forms, Incantation, Palindrome, Pantoum, Rondeau family, Sestina, Sonnet, Stanza, Syllabics, Tercet, Triolet, and Villanelle.

I appreciated the education on forms, but enjoyed even more reading the 175 poems and picking out those that spoke most strongly to me. Robert Service's Cremation of Sam McGee, John McCrae's In Flanders Fields, and Pauline Johnston's Train Dogs are, of course, old favorites. I like Maureen Hynes' Self-Sufficient Blues ('Got the self-sufficient blues, just me, myself and mine') and love the exuberance and sense of nature in The Skater by Sir Charles G. D. Roberts - 'And the woods hung hushed in their long white dream / By the ghostly, glimmering, ice-blue stream.'

Betsy Struthers' Last Days speaks poignantly of caring for a loved one suffering dementia. George Johnston's charming Cathleen Sweeping hits to the heart with a parent's delight in a small, busy child, while Bliss Carman's Vagabond Song creates a longing to wander through Fall colors - 'The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry / Of bugles going by.' Maxianne Berger's Constrained Response takes hilarious aim at literary criticism, and Alan Wilson has fun with physics in Particle Limericks.

In Fine Form provides a thorough lesson on form in poetry, offering many lyrical examples of Canadian poems of each type, with verses varying widely in form, style, subject and feeling.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews