Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Linder and Deahl team up for "Two Paths Through The Seasons"


Two Paths Through The Seasons
by Norma West Linder & James Deahl

Cyclamens and Swords, 44 pages 
ISBN 978-965-7503-13-3

Veteran Sarnia, Ontario poets Norma West Linder and James Deahl have teamed up for a collection of poetry, Two Paths Through The Seasons, an aesthetically pleasing volume published by Helen Bar-Lev’s Cyclamens and Swords Publishing based in Metulla, Israel. 

The cover art, a watercolour by Linder (“Trilliums at Highland Glen”), is lovely and inviting and her poems make up the first half of the book, most serving as poignant memoir and/or descriptions of area woodlands and landscapes. There are also very nice tribute poems to Ella Fitzgerald and Irving Layton, but it’s the tributes to an era of her youth that piqued my interest the most – verses capturing the essence of a time that many of us can only visit through bygone films and music.

One of the highlights of the first section:

For Love Alone

Late in the afternoon
at the entrance to the mall
a frail old man
in a rumpled blue serge suit
tucks his violin
under his long white beard
and fills the August air
with haunting music from
Cavalleria Rusticana.

His instrument
almost a part of him
he plays for love alone
eyes closed against the crowd.

After a mystical hour
the old man stoops
picks up his case
tenderly encloses
his violin inside
and shuffles off
leaving a scattering
of silver coins
on the ground behind him.

He played for love alone.

©  2014 Norma West Linder

The longing for an earlier life is beautifully encapsulated in the closing lines of “Sad Bird of Youth,” where Linder writes, of a whippoorwill’s song”: “How could I know / it was calling to me / through a red sea / of time / through a timeless / red sea.”

James Deahl’s poetry has impressed me more and more over this past year as I’ve gone back and re-read his earlier books plus one of his latest offerings (“Rooms the Wind Makes” which I reviewed on this blog in February of 2013). Deahl is more than capable of rendering nature poems alongside tales of personal relationships and all flow in an unhindered, unified manner. His accounts of nature are unique and visit all of the reader’s senses. He avoids the clichés most poets will scribe at one time or another, and in Two Paths Through The Seasons, his poems to his daughters and later, to his late wife Gilda, are void of the sentimentality you might expect. Take this stanza from “Full Moon in August”:

The sun sinks closing
the day, much as
my wife’s death closed
all the doors of the future.
Only this blinding heat lingers.
I lie in bed sleepless
as if awaiting the hour
God will unlock the white
honeycomb of His wisdom.
A dark wind walks
through the hidden forest.
This evening
even the full moon
wears its black mask.

His pacing is one of calm and confidence, the clarity of word never distracting or intrusive. The poems in this collection have all appeared in earlier volumes and publications over the past 35 years – so in a way it’s a mini “selected verse” – making me long for a full-length version of such.

The loss of what was is a theme that’s visited regularly in these poems, an example of which is below:

     for Beryl Weale

A desolation made by man.
Whole hillsides, valleys
swept clean – a beaten land
under the naked sky.

The mines have long
closed. Only scarred earth
and the unemployed remain.
Here and there a few sheep
starve on the weak grass
a bird scavenges for seed.

It is hard to understand
that once trees covered these hills,
once trout swam
these rivers. Although it is spring
a black autumn descends.

Blackness fills the lungs
of ex-miners. School children,
buried when the slag-tip moved,
are lice in the night of the earth.
And the lightless water
filling the abandoned shaft

is the voice of our bones
calling from a great distance,
from miles beneath our white skin.

© 2014 James Deahl

My only lament is that I wish I could write as well as Deahl – he’s truly in an elite class of poet – and I have no problem ranking him alongside Lorna Crozier as one of Canada’s very finest.

Two Paths Through The Seasons, being released just this April, is certainly well-timed in conjunction with National Poetry Month, and both Norma West Linder and James Deahl have contributed a memorable addition here in 2014.

– Andreas Gripp






  1. Thanks, Andreas, for posting your insightful review of TWO PATHS THROUGH THE SEASONS. I started reading this collection at my ZenRiver hangout this aft, & I was lost in reverie until an iceberg with the square footage of my study broke off with a loud bang. It floated by & headed downstream along with my concentration.

    I'd love to see both James Deahl & Norma West Linder get the GG - how about a double GG - the first couple to do so! I really like Deahl's poetry, even published his first book with Unfinished Monument Press - a treatise on his poetics, REAL POETRY, circa 1982. How many young poets start off with their poetics & then write for a lifetime to complete their own challenge! However, comparing Deahl with Crozier is a disservice to Deahl's poetry in my opinion.

  2. Hi Chris, thank you for your comments -- glad you're happy with the review. I'm a big fan of Crozier -- I'm not necessarily saying they're similar only that they're equally excellent in their poetry in my opinion. Cheers.