Patrick Lane Len Gasparini - Essay

Len Gasparini

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Lane's poems tell us about things we would like to forget. They are the acerbic documents of an imagination turned inside out. Lane records his impressions of reality with guts. There is no jive circumlocution in his style—an unschooled, street-cool one that serves the purpose of his perception. Neither does he run at the mouth for the sake of vocabulary….

Beware the Months of Fire is Lane's ninth collection, and it contains many poems from earlier, now out-of-print editions. The new poems complement the range of Lane's voice. They also touch upon familiar and poignant subjects; from the almost scatological view of "What Does Not Change" to the brutality of "Gerald"; from big city streets to country jails to the haunting isolation of the B.C. interior, and from the malaise called South America to Canada's own spectral Indian Reservations. Lane has covered them all. His poems are mirrors with the spidery cracks of truth in them. He doesn't flinch from the ugliness and cruelty of life, but observes it with ironic compassion. Like Layton and Jeffers, he knows the grimace behind the grin. (p. 92)

Lane's vision encompasses the surfeit of experience pushed to its extremity. Whether he writes about wild dogs or lovemaking, "Toronto the Ugly" or the "shredded" walls in a tenement house, he is right there, gripping the essential, inducing us to look. He feeds us raw chunks of life.

Because of his seeming obsession with the seamier aspects of life, the lyrical and reflective moments in his poetry (And they do happen!) hit us unexpectedly. "The Bird", "Saskatchewan", "October", "Cariboo Winter", and "Similkameen Deer" are evocative of nature and the tender ceremonies of love. In these pieces Lane transforms the "I" and gives it an objective dignity. Metaphor and meaning create a kind of magnetic field, and the poet places the "I" within that space…. [Beware the Months of Fire] is easily the best book of poems to come out of Canada this year. (p. 93)

Len Gasparini, "One Plus Three" (reprinted by permission of the author), in Canadian Literature, No. 63, Winter, 1975, pp. 92-5.∗