Erin Mouré Criticism - Essay

A. F. Moritz (review date March 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Lines from the Junction," in Books in Canada, Vol. 8, No. 3, March, 1979, pp. 16-17.

[Moritz is a Canadian author, translator, film critic, and editor. Below, he favorably assesses Mouré's "sharply observed images of urban and industrial life" in Empire, York Street.]

Erin Mouré's first book gives us a poet in struggle with "the god of this world seen / in a green ditch beside / a railway siding." These poems set out to acknowledge the full dehumanizing weight of the world and still win affirmation. And affirmation does occur—infrequent, frail, threatened as perhaps it must be, yet powerful, because poetic strength assures us that it is real and achieved, not merely asserted.

A nervous energy of language, fresh and gripping phrases, sharply observed images of urban and industrial life—these are the most immediately striking features of Empire, York Street. Mouré is capable of nature imagery and simple lyrics, but her poetic eye more often lights on garage roofs of corrugated iron; 40-watt bulbs in the halls of cheap apartment buildings; a shipment of tungsten; electrical wiring; railway switchyards; "a certain amount of equipment / assembled on the floor."

Although our civilization is filled with junk, Mouré sees it as an attempt to transcend the sorrows of existence. Of an airplane landing, she says: "A sopped earth rises to enclose / this...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Tom Marshall (review date August-September 1983)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Distances," in Canadian Forum, Vol. LXIII, No. 731, August-September, 1983, p. 43.

[Marshall is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, and professor whose writings include the poetry collection Playing with Fire (1984) and the novel Changelings (1991). In the following mixed review of Wanted Alive, he examines Mouré's use of language and her compassion for the human condition.]

Erin Mouré's first book of poems, Empire, York Street, was highly praised and was nominated for the Governor-General's Award in 1979. Her second, Wanted Alive, is a substantial collection at 112 pages, and is also impressive in its way. If I am...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

Peter O'Brien (essay date Winter 1984)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Memory and Desire: The Poems of Erin Mouré," in Essays on Canadian Writing, No. 30, Winter, 1984, pp. 339-43.

[In the following essay, O'Brien discusses Wanted Alive, contending that it is Mouré's attempt at understanding and exploring the human heart.]

Throughout her poems Erin Mouré mixes memory and desire—a tenacious memory which sometimes rearranges the present, and a desire to see into the ephemeral future. She has spoken of the past as constantly metamorphosing, and of the future as nothing more than the "present falling forward." In her most recent collection of poems, Wanted Alive, she speaks of the crumbling boundaries which...

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Erin Mouré with Robert Billings (interview date 2 March 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An interview in Waves, Vol. 14, No. 4, Spring, 1986, pp. 36-44.

[In the following interview, Mouré discusses the Canadian content of her works, the images she employs, her love for language, and the influence of contemporary literary theory on her work.]

[Billings]: Let's start way back. You're from the west, from Calgary, lived in Vancouver for several years, and now you're in Montreal. You're not a prairie poet in the mode of, say Leona Gom, Glen Sorestad, Andrew Suknaski, or Lorna Crozier. Why not?

[Mouré]: I don't know (laughs). I think that the prairie as a place is very present in my mind, but I don't live there. So those aren't...

(The entire section is 4335 words.)

Barbara Carey (review date April 1988)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Hothead," in Books in Canada, Vol. 17, No. 3, April, 1988, pp. 27-8.

[In the following generally favorable review of Furious, Carey states that Mouré's didacticism and feminist outrage occasionally detract from her evocation of the "inarticulateness of experience."]

I have to confess that the moment I heard this book was slated for release, I began haunting the poetry section of my local bookstore, convinced that a dose of new work by Erin Mouré would chase away the winter doldrums. Chase is putting it mildly, and mild is something this book is not. Furious is Mouré's fourth full-length collection, and true to form (and content),...

(The entire section is 996 words.)

Ross Labrie (review date Autumn-Winter 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Music in Words," in Canadian Literature, Nos. 122-23, Autumn-Winter, 1989, pp. 143-48.

[In the excerpt below, Labrie dismisses many of the poems in Furious as overburdened by Mouré's theoretical considerations, but suggests that a few "certainly repay attention."]

Appended to Erin Mouré's Furious are a series of critical observations designed to explain the poetry that precedes them. Displaying an interest, evident among some recent poets, in applying experimental alterations in the structure of language to the writing of poetry and showing some similarity to Gertrude Stein in her use of repetition and incremental variation, Mouré demonstrates an interest in poetic theory that, as in the case of Stein, can lead at times to the triumph of theory over practice. Some of the theorizing, while inconsequential to the reader, is given prominence by the poet in being associated with the title of her collection of poems: "It's the way people use language makes me furious." Me too.

Shaped by such theoretical considerations, many of the lines are fragmented, without being suggestively elliptical, while others are merely prose set into stanzaic form, as in the following extract:

        Eventually I came to miss the mountains, the man said
        hands knotted in front of his jacket
        in the Faculty bar of an English university
        in Montréal where the heat stifles

What can one say in the face of such flaccid lines, except perhaps, who cares?

Nevertheless, several poems in Furious certainly repay attention, one of these being "Cure," a meditation on the body and on our relationship to other animals, whose formal cohesiveness is as welcome as its unusual theme:

        I am thinking of the cross-grain slices
        they cut out of cows, in their centre being,
        their fleshy fullness.
        Sometimes I am only the piece of liver in me, its cell walls
        permeable & unbutchered
        Its huge slice grows in me, instead of children
        I am growing this organ
        When I raise it in my arms to show you
        it flops, a wet flag, awkward …
        Those cows moving in the field, freely and captive, their memory timed
        down to the kill floor, so many seconds for the head blow,
        so many to lance away the skin.
        If the liver were soft enough to hold up
        in my mouth without hurting,
        I could call my memory out of it
        I could taste what is in me that won't ever be clean.

Di Brandt (review date January-February 1990)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Dead Reckoning," in Books in Canada, January-February, 1990, pp. 42-3.

[In the following positive review, Brandt discusses the language, syntax, and poetic structure of Mouré's WSW (West South West).]

Erin Mouré's virtuosity dazzles. WSW (West South West), her newest collection of poems, is filled with the kind of energy, the quick movement from hand or eye to sudden landscape, dream, or memory that we have come to expect in her writing. There is also the continuation of her preoccupation with language, the precise and eloquent questioning of structure and syntax and surface, elaborated as a series of questions at the end of Furious (which won...

(The entire section is 638 words.)

Bruce Whiteman (review date Winter 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Miniatures and Mandrakes," in Canadian Literature, No. 131, Winter, 1991, pp. 224-26.

[Whiteman is a Canadian bibliographer and poet whose writings include Leonard Cohen: An Annotated Bibliography (1980) and En avoir fini avec le corps seul (1987). In the following unfavorable review, Whiteman contends that WSW (West South West) fails to include the lyrical qualities and the "public concerns of Mouré's earlier writings."]

Erin Mouré's WSW (West South West) is a difficult book, full of a kind of writing that is patently informed by theory and yet so close to the body as sometimes barely to articulate any subject. Subject, story and...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Susan Glickman (essay date Spring 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Speaking in Tongues: The Poetry of Erin Mouré," in Essays on Canadian Writing, No. 43, Spring, 1991, pp. 133-43.

[Glickman is a Canadian poet, educator, and critic whose works include Henry Moore's Sheep, and Other Poems (1990). In the following essay, she provides an overview of Moure's work.]

To get back to that purity. My friend, hand, voice a stutter at
the edge of. What is. Real trees with real birds in the branches,
wet tamarack, the birds' feathers glossed up & beaks singing.
The throats birds have, throats of thrushes, oh soft spotted brown

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Lorraine M. York (review date Fall 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Poetic Emergenc(i)es," in Essays on Canadian Writing, No. 44, Fall, 1991, pp. 133-41.

[York is a Canadian educator and author of The Other Side of Dailiness: Photography in the Works of Alice Munro, Timothy Findley, Michael Ondaatje, and Margaret Laurence (1988). In the following favorable review, York discusses WSW (West South West), focusing on Mouré's use of language and innovative poetic structures.]

"Once again I begin a long praise of the accidental." The line is Erin Mouré's, from her new collection WSW (West South West) but it could just as easily stand as an epigraph to the works of many contemporary Canadian women poets. Poets...

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Charlene Diehl-Jones (review date December 1992)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Maps of Our Knowing," in Books in Canada, Vol. XXI, No. 9, December, 1992, pp. 44-5.

[In the generally favorable review below, Diehl-Jones examines the strengths and weaknesses of Sheepish Beauty, Civilian Love.]

Erin Mouré opens her new book, Sheepish Beauty, Civilian Love, with a poem that in certain ways sets up her whole project:

What is "transubstantial" in the word, the hallucination of
this & that, the words not containers of meaning but

multipliers, three tongues in one mouth, distinction
without denotation or connotation, this,...

(The entire section is 523 words.)