Joyce Wayne (review date March 1983)
SOURCE: A review of False Shuffles, in Quill and Quire, Vol. 49, No. 3, March, 1983, p. 66.
[In the following positive review, Wayne briefly discusses stylistic and thematic aspects of False Shuffles.]
Once in a very long while a book of poetry appears that is so strong and original it signals the discovery of a remarkable new talent.
Jane Urquhart's second book of poetry, False Shuffles, is one of these occasions. Filled with the lives of small-town eccentrics, Niagara Falls daredevils, undertakers' brides, and beer-hall waitresses, the book is both expertly crafted and emotionally compelling.
At its heart, False Shuffles is about the power of magic as the poet, portrayed as magician, explores a surrealistic world. Illusion takes precedence over reality, and the odd, the eccentric, and the ghostly mean more than the daily news.
The language is intensely private and the imaginative landscape is highly charged with passion and memory. It's a shadowy, eerie landscape Urquhart creates where a turn-of-the-century bride records the number of bodies drowned in Niagara Falls and another girl dismantles a tombstone in search of a dead woman's clothes.
The poems are written mainly as tales, in a voice deceptively straightforward but always alert, tense, and often on the verge of some ghastly discovery. It is a voice that rips open the surface of the ordinary to reveal the magic and horror lurking beneath the commonplace, a voice that has chosen, almost reluctantly, to tell the stories of her own ancestors as if they were concealed treasure in an abandoned graveyard.
These poems will clutter your dreams with their dark, illuminating vision, for they are, as Urquhart describes them: "loose bits of paper carried by the wind / caught for a moment / on the fence around this time."