[Gwen MacEwen] is a wonder, a phenomenological mythicist, a poet of legendary process—how everyday becomes supernatural reality. Magic Animals: Selected Poems Old and New provides a welcome chance to become reacquainted with the best poems of her earlier books—for a change, I agree with almost all the selections—and to discover a group of new poems in which the poet explores the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and the somewhat ambiguous glory of god, providing, by the by, some witty and acute visions of man in the middle….
[She] has a powerful command of tone, an ability to create mesmerizing patterns of sound and rhythm which make her best poems truly enchanting. What is not always mentioned, however, is her sly, feline sense of humour. Much of MacEwen's work is celebration, and celebration of her universe is a matter of cosmic laughter as often as not. (p. 757)
If you're missing any one of A Breakfast for Barbarians, The Shadow Maker or The Armies of the Moon, you should get this book. If you've somehow missed Gwen MacEwen's poems entirely, you have to get this book. If you can enjoy a poetry both sensual and sly, erotic and mythological, witty and occasionally savage in its assaults upon the human heart and mind, you'll want to get this book. Magic Animals is a rich and energetic testament to a career in full stride. We can look to read much more from MacEwen in the future. (p. 758)
Douglas Barbour, in Dalhousie Review, Winter, 1975–76.