Patrick Lane Doug Fetherling - Essay

Doug Fetherling

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lane's poems are more visceral than cerebral and are not abstract at all. At their most representative they focus on a specific person or place in his life, such as a whore or a lumberjack, a jail cell or a highway, and they are characterized by a general surefootedness and realism through which he sprinkles the occasional brilliant image, the odd burst of poetry so pure it makes you squirm. This places him in direct contrast with those who favour the halting and the indirect, who esteem the distillation of experience to the point where the poem is the residue of the moment and the thought. Likewise it removes him from those of the other popular extreme for whom the poem is a topical thing dashed off to preserve the moment of its birth; who do not eliminate, rework and reshape but who believe in the blanket method of trying to isolate truths. In the age of extremists, then, Lane is a moderate who does not see a potential poem in every experience and who does not too much belabour, according to fashion, those things he does undertake. He goes his own way, without followers but with at least one teacher.

For many years associated with West Coast writing, he seems in this retrospective collection [The Sun Has Begun to Eat the Mountain] to be at his best in several cases when dealing with British Columbia. The best instance is a longer poem called "Sam Sam the Candy Man."… It is a childhood memory of the town simpleton and his...

(The entire section is 454 words.)