Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carmine Starnino's Lazy Bastardism

I’m a day late. Last night I’d prepared my opening paragraph to Carmine Starnino’s latest book of poetry criticism, Lazy Bastardism, by predicting that just one of the twenty-four essays would garner most of the buzz and counter-arguments. That essay, “Steampunk Zone”, a general commentary on current poetry trends in this fair land, comprises nine pages of the 263 page tome total, yet Jonathan Ball has already seen fit to come out of the reviewing gate with a hypocritical, nitpicky, shallow, singularly-obsessed snippet-reaction to it. I might come back to it on this blog in the next few weeks or so, but be prepared for a similar focus from poets anxious to defend their new and glorious turf (Michael Lista says there’s a “revolution” currently underway in Canadian poetry), from both the self-styled avantists as well as the more traditionally inclined creators.

So let’s discuss that brief essay in some detail. Starnino’s general thesis is that poets today are excited to dismantle those boring old catch-alls – tradition vs experimental – by combining elements of both into an “anything goes” amalgam. He further contends that, though the results are often stimulating, the reasoning behind the intentions and structural time-bending mixes of those poems are often hard to come to terms with for their questionable rationale and unclear vision. Starnino: “[A]fter a point, after celebrating the explosion of poetic techniques, I have to ask myself: what are all those techniques for, exactly?”. Indeed. And because I love cross-form (and genre) comparisons, here’s Ted Gioia writing about jazz movements in the past half-century:

“This is the jazz world we have inherited, a happily-ever-after in which anything goes, everything goes, and pluralism (not freedom or atonality) is the single guiding principle. There is no sign that this will change anytime soon. Indeed, it is almost inconceivable that it could change. No one in the jazz world believes in the Hegelian force of history any more, even if they pay it lip service...The reality, which everyone can plainly see, is that jazz styles are more like Paris fashions, which must change with the season, but not with some linear sense of inevitability, more just for the sheer fun of it.”

  There are many fascinating and wonky parallels to be gleaned from Gioia’s essay, of which this is but a tiny sample, between 60s experimentation and the experimentation currently underway in both jazz and poetry (Starnino broadens this new “movement’s” scope to include poetry coming out of England and the U.S.) Poets previously enamoured with closed forms and narrative threads are incorporating disjunctive shifts and loose structure; others previously happy to pen their obfuscatory poetics in poems are even more intent on explaining those creations in prose manifestoes and exegesis, using “rational” bridges in their special pleading. Jazz and poetry are also similar today in that both obsessions, always minority reports in the music and word arts respectively, have lost fan numbers in the past half-century. What intrigues me about Gioia’s essay, as it pertains to Starnino’s argument, is that jazz didn’t have to retreat or consolidate on the experiments of the 60s and 70s. It could have gone in any number of directions while still, legitimately, calling itself the avant-garde. But it didn’t. The revolution (not the laughable “revolution” that Lista trumpets) that Ornette Coleman kickstarted became, in Gioia’s words, 

“a venerated tradition in its own right. Part of the allure of this music was its outsider status, its exclusion from the power structures of society, which it was supposed to oppose. Yet someone like Cecil Taylor can point to his Guggenheim Award and MacArthur fellowship, and has played at the White House. (And look at how many other avant-gardists, from Anthony Braxton to George Lewis, have won the so-called MacArthur "genius grants.") Ornette Coleman has had more books devoted, in whole or part, to his career, than almost any other living jazz musician. Universities, foundations, festivals all open their arms to the former revolutionaries. Anyone else might delight in such acceptance and rewards. But those most closely aligned with the Free Jazz movement can only ask "Where did our revolution go?" “. 

The academic adulation here is most telling. Cultural revolutions are formed in the streets, not in the universities. And that – the link with the learneries – is perhaps a good segue in which to note a subset of the hybrid poem: the scientific exploration. Starnino is up to speed here with Adam Dickinson’s “Anatomic: Semiotic Bodies, Chemical Environments for which he plans to subject himself to exhaustive chemical testing.”. A few sentences later Starnino expands on this concern with typical questing insight: “[T]he easy availability of [steampunk] procedures has led to a growing uncertainty about how to discuss such linguistic lab work, or even whether anything meaningful can be said at all.”. Isn’t scientific exploration just a modern variant on the general postmodern strategy of complicating the work for the lay reader so that any self-defense or justification can be headed off before the horse is mounted, let alone headed at the pass? And at the risk of being called out for creating “false binaries”, that tired and superficial argument for those with nothing more to say, I find it troubling that poetry’s practitioners are climbing, with greater regularity, into bed with scientific concepts and procedure. Call me a fossilized fool, an intransigent traditionalist, but I always thought that poetry’s subjectivity was in direct conflict with objective analysis and cool-headed facts. Or if that’s an oversimplification, with abstract and tentative conclusions about those experiments. (Scientific mental masturbation, then, without the payoff.) In any event, as Gioia would say about jazz’s current predicament, the “steampunk” era is here to stay. And just like jazz’s impasse, the overriding concern seems to be “fun” Here’s a note to poets everywhere from my arrogant self. We’ve passed from an ironic age to a tragic one. Young men and women, more than us old-timers, should have more emotion and urgency and recognition about that fact. Until they can put that steampunk recombining into a much more serious and focussed vision (irony is still welcome, but self-congratulatory irony should be out the window) , the communal congratulations will occur in a vacuum. And no, just because the greater unwashed shun any poetry is no excuse. Otherwise, who do you want to write for?

Of course, in his haste to defend his own work,-- the real reason he wrote his review -- Jonathan Ball happened to ignore the twenty essays on individual poets which make up the elephant’s share of the book. Oh, actually, no. Here’s his response , in full, on five of the poets reviewed: Atwood is taken to task for her “lazy languishment in simplistic political prose-with-line-breaks, McKay for devolving into self-parody, and Moritz for sham artistry”. Now, first off, Starnino’s harsh critique of Atwood is pointed at her most recent poetry production. He has much affection and respect for her earlier writings, so it’s ridiculous to conclude that Starnino "dissects their [Atwood included] development and the larger significance of the poetic trends they represent". To encapsulate Starnino’s cogent, forceful reservations about Moritz into “sham artistry” is to not only misrepresent Starnino, but to dump on Moritz with lazy bastard dismissal. Again, Starnino has respect for Moritz’ more earthy images and approaches, as do I (in an earlier blog post on Moritz’s four-book Early Poems). Did Ball read these essays, or just skim in order to get to “Steampunk”? And to characterize McKay as “devolving into self-parody” is to, again, overlook the evidence put forth that McKay’s poetry has developed its concerns even as it's consolidated the self-insertion. Starnino’s reviews are always involved and many-sided, but when a reviewer of a reviewer is just looking at one horse in a race, a hasty tail-sticker application gets one around the track much faster, and with far less effort. Here’s his critique and disagreement with Starnino on the accomplished, entertaining, unfashionably non-academic, non-doctrinaire, vulnerable Peter Trower: “boring”. But of course this doesn’t actually critique the review at all. He answers none of the claims Starnino makes for Trower, and again doesn’t acknowledge the full spectrum of criticism. Starnino has some harsh formulations about Trower’s weak points – sentimentalism, all-purpose diction, flat psychology (I’d disagree somewhat by saying psychologically narrow), tonal instability, dire inaccuracies, inconsistency, tiresome word-clusters, overearnestness, character caricatures. Does that sound like a critic in unbalanced high praise? But, then, this perfectly represents the problem with reviewing a review of over twenty poets. Most will not have read much of the poets indexed here, so one can only go for grand statements in reaction. And of course, Starnino’s approach helps this reaction since he’s concerned with schools and trends, linkages and popularity movements, and more importantly, with how influential verse promoters create the next generation’s poetic focus.

Time to divulge, then. I’ve read, widely, thirteen of the poets investigated herein. On Atwood’s The Door, I strongly agree, as an essay elsewhere will confirm. I don’t agree with some of his assessments of individual poems – “The Year Of The Hen” I thought particularly bad – but the overall tenor of his views I’m in sympathy with. Lazy and self-concerned, politically facile, emotionally pallid. It’s only one good example for an argument that best-before dates should be put on more coverings than milk cartons and meat plastic.

I was delighted with Starnino’s investigation of Margaret Avison. I’m far from up-to-speed on how poets of an earlier age, especially deceased poets once highly regarded, are now viewed. My suspicion is that, absent wide and discriminating discourse, many just may be slightly undervalued. It’s for this reason alone that I’m always delighted to see this category of poet reviewed at all. And Avison certainly merits such investigation. Starnino focusses on her Christian conversion and intensification and wisely points out that Avison accomplished something rare: a theological superstructure which never pushes her own views onto her agnostic or atheistic readers. In fact, Avison exemplifies the best in individual Christians: an unsentimental and fearless regard, and in compassionate recording, of the neglected we see every day in our casual travels. Considerations of space in the original placement of these reviews may have precluded a lengthier microscopy of individual poems which, if true, would be too bad, since Avison’s symbolism deserves it. But Starnino does an exceptional job in the space allotted to give more than a glimpse in how Avison’s control of syntax and word choice, symbol and structure, enliven , in Starnino’s intelligent comparison between a zealous Christian’s prayer and a poet’s agitated phrase-search, the belief “that words have buried fecundities – asleep until activated by faith".

Starnino’s discussion of Earle Birney concentrates on his later and larger Selected, One Muddy Hand. I haven’t picked it up, but I’ve read Birney’s smaller (by 25%, according to Starnino) Selected, Ghost In The Wheels. I felt about that volume the way Starnino characterizes the later effort: “It’s everything you want in a Birney selected, as well as everything you didn’t know you wanted.” The truncated version of Birney that Starnino contends is the one studied in universities, no doubt propelled by the success of “David”, doesn’t begin to introduce the otherwise uninformed reader of Birney’s technical scope or subject range. Always restless, Birney bequeathed a word-legacy of shaggy lyricism, impish narrative, and wacky concrete entries that belong more to the wine-in-hand dell than the coffee-in-hand desk. Starnino defines Birney as a “proto-Purdy nationalist” long before Purdy’s celebrated 1965 The Cariboo Horses ,but it should also be noted that Birney wasn’t the “Canada first” nationalist that Purdy was predictably lauded for. If anything, Birney was a regionalist, in thrall to his surroundings, wherever he happened to be, in or out of Canada. Purdy was a regionalist, too, in a sense, but Birney’s affection for his immediate world never lost its temporal joy, and his ironies rarely turned inward, a frequent and tiresome feature of Purdy’s “geographical” obsessions.

I haven’t read any of the work of the nineteenth century monarchist James Denoon, but part of the joy of reading about him comes through in a unique biography , part of which includes a touching approach, in Denoon, to poetic impulse in a time both more sympathetic and unsophisticated towards a poem’s arrival. Jonathan Ball’s view of this essay is made up of one word to describe its subject – “loser” – which is apt if one is looking at poetry as a hobby horse race over which a human director, regaled in the splashiest silks, steers towards a nebulous finish line. But as Starnino’s essay points out, Denoon’s verse “offers up the meagrest of aesthetic satisfactions but is worth a thousand facts.” As in his big-picture summation of Peter Trower’s poetry, Starnino holds a sympathetic place for authentic verse that doesn’t  attach high claims within it or, shortly thereafter, about it. I both agree and disagree with this. Much of contemporary poetry has the worst of both worlds: an inflated, overburdened approach to ephemeral subjects. I wouldn’t mind a lot more overreach, but a reach with actual substance instead.

The lengthy essay on John Glassco is a highlight of Lazy Bastardism. In part a sympathetic biography about a troubled figure ala James Denoon (those two personalities couldn’t have been much different, though the tones are eerily similar), it also serves as a launching point for a larger argument against literary tastemaking, only, I hasten to add, when those tastes are overpriced and sour. Glassco, Starnino contends, got caught up in the shifting winds of what constituted the latest and greatest. TISH’s George Bowering, as Starnino points out, hit an Ontario university for four years in the late sixties, early 70s. In all areas of life, public and private, formalism and tradition were out, man. Squaresville. Glassco was shunned, his unprodigious career destroyed. The reason, it seems to me, Starnino focussess so much on Glassco’s physical transformations (or regressions) is to emphasize obsessions and themes in Glassco’s poetry (the dilapidated barns, i.e.) as well as the idea of poet as nothing more than image or presentation. This is part of the younger TISH group’s means of condemnation. It must have driven them mad with glee and revulsion to catch a photo of a tired Glassco, full of weighty hauteur and, once inside the book’s cover, careful line-making. But as Starnino says, it’s others (call them traditionalists if you like) who are having the last laugh on Bowering’s boys (women seemed to get short shrift in their polemic jockeying). Because after all the posing and sword-play with piss, it’s only the poems that matter. And I’ll take just about any twenty or fifty poems of Gustafson or Glassco over anything popped out by Bowering or Davey or bissett.

Another long essay is the following one on Michael Harris. Unless I missed a brief reference to it, Starnino was a student of Harris. In fact, Starnino elsewhere (an interview? another essay?) states that were it not for Harris’ pedagogy and example, he probably or most definitely (can’t remember which) would not have followed the path of poetry’s demanding obsessions. This is by way of bringing into the open that fond tutelages have a way of colouring  the subjective tendencies of those on the receiving end. Now, that in mind, Starnino does an outstanding job of diving into the deep end of Harris’ creations to come up with more than a few odd and forgotten (or never seen) treasures. Many critics of the friendship or acolyte angle also don’t take into account that a lot of what the admiring student first sees in the teacher is an honest grappling with that instructor’s worth. It’s the talent that comes first, then, not the friendship. Harris, like Glassco, isn’t an overly fashionable poet. Synchronizing publication with the sightings of Ogopogo rather than a friend’s obnoxious parade of leftist vote-promoting Facebook you tube links, the elder poet virtually disappeared from poetry’s screen until 2010’s incredible Circus. As against some critics’ disparagement of the poems’ “anachronistic” gaze, the poems have nothing to do with the current steampunking of verse, and everything to do with the circus as timeless high-wire multiple metaphor . But Starnino keeps his analysis close to the ground with a series of investigations into the Harris corpus, crawling and zipping from line to line. Redundant of me to weigh in on the close reading, and twice removed from the core citations, anyway. But if one is going to criticize Starnino (all well and good), it would be delightful and revealing if it were done, just once in a while, with this level of scrutiny in mind rather than the drive-by adjectives and the school-defending macro byte.Who am I kidding? It would be good if criticism of detailed exegesis were to be entertained on any reviewer or critic instead of the supposed beef he or she has with certain types of poetry. Speaking of disagreements, the biggest one I have anywhere in Lazy Bastardism comes out of this (mostly quoted) paragraph in the Harris’ essay: “But this also reflects the culturally synoptic condition of most Montreal poets, who are constantly forced, on a daily level, to shift between different registers and syntaxes and thus are more open to cross-influences than they might have been had they lived in Toronto or Vancouver or Calgary. ... The city itself, in other words, lures our poems out of the verbal ghetto  of what Solway has called ‘Standard Canadian Average’ “. Now this is an argument that is both ignorant and needlessly defensive. I’ve lived a half-century in Vancouver. It is now slightly over 50% Asian, and many of those immigrants have retained their first languages. But it’s not a new development, and it doesn’t pertain to one dialect or ethnicity. Growing up as a wee ankle-biting critic-in-formation, my friends were Fijians, Italians, Slavs, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, and Sikhs (as well as a few pasty-faced Brits and Scandinavians). I’m sure I picked up some hidden nuances in all the different cadences, syntactical emphases, cuss-vocabulary expansion, and emotional variance. And I’m sure many in Toronto could say the same since it’s a multicultural pot of stew. So Montreal’s situation in this regard is hardly unique. Yes, our English arts tradition is complicated by our other official language, and the special status of that language (official or not) has different ramifications than other comparisons to any other language which has minimal recognition in the greater communities of other cities. But Starnino here is speaking of how all of us navigate between the many languages (or one other language) on the street, and how it influences us –“constantly forced, on a daily level”, again, is how he puts it – in poetic formulations at the subtlest pre-poem configurations. I happen to think Montreal has long been the English poetry hotbed in Canada. It needs no special pleading for its presumed neglect (moreso in Starnino’s A Lover’s Quarrel as well as David Solway’s critical excoriations).

The short review of James Langer’s Gun Dogs is instructive as to what it conveys about the critic’s thoughts on a number of contemporary poets. This is one of the exciting discoveries of much of Starnino’s criticism. He doesn’t simply pick a poet’s book out of a hat when he wants to write a review. It’s usually indicative of a bigger trend or feature in what others are also doing. And Starnino’s point is harsh, perhaps a little too much so, but think on the number of Canadian poetry books published in the past five years that have the perfectly weighted levers, the expertly calibrated vise-clamps, the musically delightful whistle-releases, and then ask yourself if you can recall any or much of what it signified. There are a few affecting poems in Langer’s collection – the nostalgic rumination while driving, the visceral snow journey (I didn’t peek, the remembrance is genuine) – but much of it struck me as elaborate exercises in verse craft. Too much Carl Czerny, not enough Franz Liszt.

Next up is a short, moving prose eulogy on Irving Layton. The public Layton has so overshadowed the real one, the one who penned “Boys Bathing”, “For Mao-Tse-tung: A Meditation On Flies And Kings”, and “The Graveyard”, that those of us who’ve enthusiastically consumed his work --  the great, the good, the indifferent, and the bad – can be forgiven for rolling our eyes at the off-topic pettiness of Layton’s detractors. Yeah, his bluster and bluff were annoying at times. So what? As he said in similar sentiments, he needed to perform so in order to overcome the quiet indifference, as well as the quiet, unsleeping hatred of art in this snow-fed country.  Of course it was easier to craft that persona than for others since his personality naturally aligned with the bombastic and satirical, the hearty guffaw and the inelegant face plant. It was both put-on and deadly serious. Yet in the end, who cares? As Starnino says, to “measure his achievement by the shock it produced, however, is to measure it by the smallest imagination of the time.” One needs no further proof of the flavour-of-the-day enthusiasms of poetic continuance in this country to learn, as I did with dismay, that Layton’s poetry, upon his death, was out of print.

The essay on Don McKay, like many others here, covers a lot of ground. It even climbs a few trees and peers into a pair of binoculars and sees .... McKay posing beside a bird. Others have provided similar critiques regarding McKay’s approach. I haven’t heard the comparison before, but McKay strikes me as an aviary-concentrated version of Al Purdy. Like Purdy, McKay’s subject seems to be the object, but is really the subject. In metaphysical terms, this would elevate McKay’s focus within many spiritual communities.—the watched is only as worthy as the recognition of who watches. But McKay, again like Purdy, is a very invested subject. I don’t agree that the observer necessarily pollutes what he or she sees. That kind of choice (or compulsion) can add a worthy dimension. But to constantly return to the personal reaction can only result, eventually, in two outcomes: the poet-observer has to create ever-changing personas, often in a joking-hysterical sense, to juice the narrative and to spice up the ostensible object, and worse, the mind, represented well in McKay’s jerky, flitting lines, becomes the ultimate destiny, the final result of the birding quest. I can’t remember the flights of many birds. And I can’t remember any of McKay’s poetry. I suppose it’s a hit with some among the poem-as-process crowd, though. I admire Starnino’s patience, though even the in-depth investigator has to admit that “it sometimes seems that the best way to read McKay’s new book is to skip.”

A.F. Moritz has been reverently applauded from quite a few corners throughout his career. I suppose it didn’t hurt that none other than Harold Bloom praised his poems when not many others outside Canada could even name another poet here besides Atwood. Moritz is fascinating. Shunning the prevailing strains of poetry being written and promoted in Canada, he took the French symbolists as his cue. I’m sure there are other influential threads that connect Moritz to other forebears – I’m no Moritz scholar – but his grand surrealist time-stifled episodes, his insistent high-toned mythscapes,  were unlike anything produced in Canada at the time. Others have introduced elevated and somber cataclysms, fable and metaphysical conundrum, into their verse since then, and have admitted to being influenced by Moritz, but this is singular stuff. One’s vision has to be seriously inclined to it. Starnino’s main objection to Moritz’ offerings can be summed up with (not his words) “too much mystical approximation, not enough recognizable referents”. I think he’s a little hard on Moritz. One thing I admire in the latter is a visionary unity or cross-sense between images and ideas. Once you’re familiar with the apocalyptic or barren landscape of a Moritz-world poem, the metaphors can be quite arresting. That said, I still, somewhat like Starnino, prefer his poems of concrete bluntness and wickedly good social denunciation.

Starnino’s essay on bpnichol was interesting from a biographical slant, and for a historical assessment within various cultures in and out of poetry. But because I can’t get into nichol’s poetry – there’s no starting point to even proceed – I’ll leave off any other commentary. Whatever is said about or against nichol, it seems that his supporters are just going to come up with “almost all of his subversive stuff is hidden or destroyed”. Yeah, well, you work with what you’ve got. Concrete poetry ain’t my thing. After the joke or “epiphany” is recognized, what next? View it again in a decade in case you’ve forgotten it? I know. He produced comics, too. And other brics and bracs. But if this is a major influence among the avant-garde in Canada, I’d like for them to recommend to me twenty other authors I need to read immediately. Serious outreaching.

The essay on David O’Meara is a little too thematic for my liking. I usually enjoy unique or focussed thematic approaches, and Starnino is usually very good with them. But the approach in this case – poet as traveler whose world is altered by his new surroundings – is not only an oft-used entry into poets of a different era and country, it also deflects a concentration from other elements in O’Meara’s work. One can’t cite influences here without immediately mentioning O’Meara’s debt to Don Coles. The former’s supple and unobtrusive lyrical phrasing, musically striking in many lines, even surpasses his master at times. Coles has a slightly different angle, anyway, being more concerned with narrative threads and mesmerically open-ended questions.

Eric Ormsby might be the poster poet for what many criticize in Starnino’s criticism: formalism ratcheted to the tightest screw-thread. Ironic, perhaps, but what Starnino criticizes in other poets (Langer, in this book) could be applied as well to Ormsby. The latter’s work is all about musical effect. With a poet so pitch-sharp, it seems niggardly to cry about a lack of content, and I know that Ormsby has finally begun to (as he jokingly relates to the author of this essay) write about people. But for all the wondrous wordplay invested into landscapes and ironing, I’d be a lot more excited by Ormsby’s work if he could (or would) turn his talents more than occasionally to matters of psychological complexity and emotional dilemmas. His prose work would suggest this would not only not be a problem, but would result in something that could blow many of our content-driven poets out of the water. What music, though! Sometimes subtitles aren’t needed.

The essay on Karen Solie is highly laudatory. She’s good, but not that good. I find her work too clever by a quarter. When on the mark, the social castigation is convincing. When on the pulpit, the conclusions are too easy, the psychological preoccupations a little too readily dropped into pre-formed slots. And with each book, the terse, tough asides become irritating. All that aside, she’s written some lasting (a prediction!) poems, and Starnino is right to describe how that has a chance of happening. She also has – again, as Starnino relates – something indispensible in these years of a telephone book’s listing of poets: a unique voice. Call it a style if you prefer, but though needing work to affect it’s “spontaneous” delights, it’s  that rare quality that justifies the reviewer’s cop-out of “going by intuition”. To echo earlier comments, there are a lot of poets who can sing on-key and with consistency, but we tend to remember the poets that have something unique to say, and a unique way of  saying it.

Peter Trower is given a fantastic overview. A biographical preview is often provided with these essays, and in Trower’s case there’s no exception. Like the preamble on Glassco, this serves as a later explanation for why (in this case) Trower has been so neglected, especially relative to many other no-weights in the same writing community scribbling at the same time. Starnino doesn’t answer that question with any conviction, but I can. Trower was a joke in the academic self-important TISH community when he first struggled to get published. A country bumpkin. An embarrassingly over-emotional reveler of self-story. An irony-free interloper devoid of meta-concerns. Of course he was shunned by the dominant poetic cult of that time. Trower’s world --his style, diction, concerns, feelings-- were a slap in the face to those of Bowering et al. Trower didn’t need to write silly, self-defensive poetics missives in response to Irving Layton’s hilarious send-up of the different birds in Canada’s cuckoo land, as Layton characterized Bowering in one of the three prevailing schools. Trower just kept his head down and wrote more poems, when he had the time and clarity away from his own demons and the physical repetitions and soul-crushing realities of logging. (That so much beauty could come out of that harsh world isn’t surprising. Death and sex/love are always more delineated and immediate in close quarters.) Trower wasn’t interested, and in any case would have been naively out of his league, in literary fencing with the “community”. Even Al Purdy’s championing of Trower’s work had little effect, outside of Trower getting a one-book gig out of Mc-Stew. No, the “stocky, shy stout-hearted” poet was so far out of fashion and time (“time’s flies”, said Timon, in this case referring to Bowering), no amount of phony rehabilitation or alternate canon-making was going to alter anything until the altered SHIT was altered into the permanent remaindered-cum-pulped bin of the heart. Starnino finally tries to explain the neglect with reason –  Trower’s fervency has “helped peg him as a poet from whom no great difficulties are expected, and thus unfit for masterdom”. I think the neglect is far more mendacious than that because Trower –the man, his work-- is a vibrant challenge to the dominant, still-with-us twaddle that goes by the name of poetry in the Greater Vancouver community.