Sunday, December 26, 2010

Barry Dempster's Blue Wherever

I read Barry Dempster's 2005 The Burning Alphabet earlier this year, and found the turning of the phrase more fertile, the range more engaging, the edge sharper, and the humour more lively than I did in the just completed Blue Wherever, published in 2010. Too many poems in the latter collection follow the same path of rueful first-person philosopher/stocktaker, lightened by self-puncturing. Nature and man (or Man) are at odds, and Dempster is interesting when mocking the Romantic hope involved in their union ("Coyote"), but the repetition burgeons until I wondered why emphasis should replace what any concision in most individual poems failed to provide. Especially towards the book's latter half, the confessional grousing became tiresome. I appreciate Dempster's honesty -- even more valuable in an age when many poets either want to limit our view of them to the sermon above the mount, or the gosh-golly of foibles -- but Blue Wherever could have used a healthy paring and pruning, and then an injection of multiple perspectives or (at least) a wider focus.

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