Phyllis Gotlieb D. G. Jones - Essay

D. G. Jones

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Ordinary, Moving" is something of a tour de force in which a host of children's songs and folk-rhymes serve to sketch the whole course of life. With blunt humour and verbal highjinks they acknowledge the terrors of sex, birth and death, the struggle to digest individual and class differences, the conflicts of languages, race and religion. They can hardly refine our insight, nor are they really new. But they renew our awareness of the variety and tough vitality of both language and people…. Throughout we are reminded of poetry's roots in the play of language. And Mrs. Gotlieb does catch something of the "heyrube and racket of carnivals." Still, we are reminded that this perennial speech is also a kind of rhetoric and that it may become, as I fear it does in "Nothing," a sort of "busted slapstick." The heyrube of carnivals and even the songs of children seem somehow to belong to an earlier and more innocent world of discourse. One doubts whether they can in fact raise the sun, bring the light—whether we are "here for good." The most convincing note may be that of the witty, ironic, yet finally puzzled "Death's Head." Lying awake, the speaker (between breaths) contemplates her own mortality sustained by nothing but her continued breathing and the realization: "and yet I seem to get to sleep." (pp. 72-3)

D. G. Jones, "Voices in the Dark," in Canadian Literature, No. 45, Summer, 1970, pp. 68-74.∗