This Was the River

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      Beginning where he left off in crawlspace with “the little start I'm given, giving, that May be,” John Pass's new poems articulate further entanglements with stasis, purpose and hope. He struggles as we all do under the weight of a world imperilled by climate change and environmental degradation. And the poems, characteristically alive with attuned observation and emotional honesty, glimpse unsettling limitations to our consciousness and conscience. This is particularly so regarding animals in the book's central sequence, “Creation of the Animals.” Historically and geographically expansive, This Was the River is nonetheless approachably human. “Margined Burying Beetle” (winner of the Malahat Review's Open Season Award in 2016) is an astonishing homage to the poet's mother, one of several pieces touching upon grief and loss. There are joyous poems, too, for the births of his grandchildren, and slyly humorous asides on medical test results and poetry prizes. Pass's affection and sorrow for the natural world is at the book's heart, and as a whole This Was the River confirms his reputation as a poet of lyrical eloquence, masterful technique and both intellectual and emotional range.
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