Jay Macpherson Arnold Edinborough - Essay

Arnold Edinborough

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

That [ballad poetry] still is the main stem from which poets can put forth their own shoots is shown in The Boatman. All the symbols of balladry—the fish of fertility, the golden apples of love, the suggestive shape of Cupid's bow as it shoots an arrow, the red rose of sex, the unicorn—are here, with just the same technique of double and triple meaning. Indeed, so much in the tradition of ballad punning and suggestiveness is Miss Macpherson that she has a collection of riddles as part of her book.

This is not to say that she is derivative except as all new poets are derivative of the poets who have written before them and from whom they have learned their technique. The Boatman, in fact, presents a new and intensely personal voice in Canadian poetry which has an assurance, a breadth and depth which is as arresting as Miss Macpherson's splendid control of her lyric medium.

Steeped in the symbols of our culture, both pagan and classical, she chisels one exquisite lyric after another in completion of her central task which is to make the reader see with new eyes, assess with newly-rediscovered values and to turn his world upside down to see if it looks any better. (pp. 20-1)

She makes us meditate on the central facts of life, of love and of death, wittily but mercilessly, not scrupling to make us think hard to get her point. (p. 21)

Arnold Edinborough, "High Cockalorum in Verse," in Saturday Night (copyright © 1957 by Saturday Night), Vol. 72, No. 15, July 20, 1957, pp. 20-2.∗