Paulette Jiles Mary Jane Edwards - Essay

Mary Jane Edwards

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Although Jiles … uses time to organize Waterloo Express and comments on such aspects of it as "Clocks," images and motifs of place, space, and travel also provide some of the volume's most important patterns. Jiles' fascination for such images is indicated in the title and opening poem where the poet hops on the "Waterloo Express," rips up herself and her identity—"there they go—a toe, a finger, my coat"—as the train rips "up the dawn," pares herself down to "one white eye," and heads for whatever "Waterloo" may bring. As the rest of the poems reveal, Jiles' journeys to such places as "Brownsville," France, and Spain bring neither victory nor disaster. She concludes [in "Schooner Cove"]:

       We have travelled so far,
       from indifference to discovery.
       We have become larger and more desperate
       than the government itself….

These lines with their prosaic structure, careful punctuation, ambiguity of meaning, and ironic undercutting both show some of Jiles' most effective techniques and suggest her feelings about her travels. The tone of "Schooner Cove," like that of many of the poems, is one of sadness and desperation. The sadness, however, is controlled and the desperation quiet. Thus, the reader leaves the volume with the feeling that Jiles is still much too interested in the world and her role in it, even in the "government itself," to drown in her desperation or to stay permanently in the cove. It is this sense of resiliency which makes Paulette Jiles' landscape in Waterloo Express appealing. (p. 42)

Mary Jane Edwards, in The Canadian Forum, August, 1974