A Serious Call.

Author:Cook, Josh
Position:Book review

Don Coles; A SERIOUS CALL; The Porcupine's Quill (Nonfiction: Poetry) 14.95 ISBN: 9780889843806

Byline: Josh Cook

A Serious Call is a quiet, beautifully rendered story of our relationships to objects, books, and the people around them.

Don Coles's sixteenth book, A Serious Call, is, among other things, an homage to memory, books, and the memories of books. As the winner of some of Canada's most prestigious literary awards and with a career that stretches back forty years, Coles has earned this vantage point. The speakers of these poems often fixate on objects -- be it a yearbook or a photograph -- and attempt to reconcile past ideals with present realities.

The book is organized in two parts. The first shows Coles's range, from an eight-line, loose translation of a Goethe poem to a three-page digressive remembrance. A twenty-one-page memoir/prose poem, from which the book takes its title, makes up the second part. The first poem, "poem," ends with a stunning line that encapsulates the book's preoccupation with time: "I was waiting to see if / it could be long ago."

In "People I Knew for One Year," the speaker lists individuals that have passed in and out of his life, applying later-gained knowledge to recontextualize them and perhaps understand them better. Toward the end of the poem, he reflects on his first grade teacher, saying, "She had blond braids / wound about her head like a Rhine maiden / although I didn't know about Rhine maidens / then." The intriguing image strikes a suggestive and magically complex note. Did time and distance make the speaker aware of his longing? Or did the knowledge of Rhine maidens give his older self the proper language?

Like Proust's madeleine and...

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