Susan Musgrave Linda Rogers - Essay

Linda Rogers

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Almost alone in the magic forest, Susan Musgrave blends her own weird voice with those of nature personified. Sounds of the rain forest echo poems in her skull, boiling with the witch's brew; moss and seaweed and trees twisted into toads. In her third book, Grave-Dirt and Selected Strawberries, nature, refracted off fairy lenses, assumes all the classic human disguises, goes through all the jigsaw possibilities of one living landscape….

Musgrave's wilderness is magical and she is a character in her own fairy tale, the wizard of poems which spring from her intercourse with tides and seasons in the dark woods…. The magnifying glass she presses to the forest floor enlarges into grotesques the central issues of her own life as a woman in the macrocosmic world of humans who have shaped their own impulses into myth. Her landscape is burdened with the traditional struggle of things animal and vegetable for survival. Moss copulates under the glass and becomes metaphor. Humour is the leaven of these strange couplings. The poet is a woman bleeding through all the seasons of the moon, but managing to laugh at the crazy lunar mysteries. Grave dirt is fertilizer for the new generation. (p. 121)

Lest we take it all too seriously, the fragile transformation of event into ritual is finally parodied in "Selected Strawberries". Strawberry, everyone's splendour in the grass, threatens to become mouth and gobble her whole mythical world. Tired of the discipline of metaphor, the poet dumps the whole spice-box of words. (pp. 121-22)

Linda Rogers, in Canadian Literature, Summer, 1974.