Volume 95, Issue 80

Wednesday, March 6, 2002
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Amanda Marshall's got a story for you

Enemy Women: a strong debut for Jiles

You Are Home successfully alienates readers

Outside the Box

Dreams? More like nightmares

You Are Home successfully alienates readers

You Are Home
Cornelia Hoogland

Black Moss Press

Two 1/2 stars (out of five)

By Megan O'Toole
Gazette Staff

It's official – the free-verse monster is consuming the world of poetry.

Apparently, breaking sentences into fragments and sprinkling in a few blank lines here and there counts as poetry these days. Cornelia Hoogland's latest collection of work, You Are Home, is testament to this reality.

By craftily avoiding rhyme schemes, form and meter, Hoogland concocts a series of verses in which she steers clear of conventional literary devices.

Hoogland is a professor at Western and credits the Ontario Arts Council for providing her with needed financial aid during the creation of her newest book.

As free verse goes, Hoogland's poetry is mediocre. You Are Home is a collection of 63 short, formless pieces touching on a number of topics including life, death, nature, art and parenthood.

Many of Hoogland's poems focus specifically on the death of her father, the accomplishments of her children and her own complicated love life. The author seems especially fixated on the relationship between time and memory.

A number of the titles are awkward and lengthy, detracting from the actual verses. For instance, "I Could be in a Museum Case behind Glass Commanding Adoration but I'm Not" leaves the reader exhausted before he or she even begins the poem.

You Are Home features poetry Hoogland clearly wrote for herself as a form of release. Instead of speaking directly to the reader, the majority of the poems merely speak about the author and her life.

As a form of communication, the collection of poetry is rather one-sided and disengaging. Hoogland continually makes allusions to personal situations, most of which have no relevance to the reader.

A number of her poems discuss places and people who clearly have important places in the author's life, but she fails to expand on their significance. For instance, in "Cross-Dressing, Crossing Over," she makes references to several names, speaking of people whom she apparently knows personally. Yet, to the reader, the names are meaningless, creating a sense of author-audience detachment akin to the poetry of T.S. Eliot.

There are, of course, some exceptions.

"On Suffering," for instance, is a short, thought-provoking piece dealing with the relationship between life and death. In addition, Hoogland's descriptions of her natural surroundings are unique and often quite beautiful.

You Are Home could be useful as a classroom tool, with students objectively analyzing Hoogland's poetry in a detached manner. Yet, as a pleasurable read, the book simply does not measure up.

In the world of poetry, carefully structured verse is largely a thing of the past. It's just a shame that Hoogland did not use her talent to challenge this assumption or revive a dying art.

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Copyright The Gazette 2002