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14th Anniversary Edition, Live Encounters Poetry & Writing Volume Six Nov-Dec 2023.
Starlight Tapestry by Don Gutteridge – book review by Terry Barker.
(translation by Anna Yin). Published by SureWay Press, 2023 156 pp. C$ 15 ISBN 978-1-998911-00-4.
Available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1998911004
Part Two, “Life tapestry” gives us (in English and Chinese) a series of poetic vignettes of the life of the author, from childhood in Point Edward (near Sarnia) Ontario to current retirement from teaching and life as a widower, through the phases of awakening to the reality of war in the experience of his grandfather and father, and thus of his family, the complexity of the questions raised by the Christianity in which he was brought up, and the turbulent passions produced by puberty, the ordering of the psyche (consciousness) offered by the reading, writing and discussing of poetry and plays, and thus to the discovery of the full range of mature human love in his courtship of, and marriage to, his late wife Anne, and in his love and appreciation for his children, a perspective that elicits his keen observance of the transcendent possibilities of meaning in the love between his son, Tim, and Shahrzad, his bride:
The day you lay your loving
look upon Shahrzad,
the stars came out
to celebrate with the sun
and the moon took time
to shine anew, and when
the object of your amorous eye
returned the grazing glance,
the skies burned a brighter
blue and the Heavens above them
shook, and on this day,
when two souls have pledged
to breathe as one, we wish you
a hatful of happiness and the winsome
ways of wedded bliss. (p. 111)
Part Three of the book, “The Longing Shore”, the concluding sequence of poems, begins with a series of accounts of anamnesis, the poet’s reflective recalling of the spiritual experiences, shared with others, that shaped his mature structure of consciousness (“Pod”, “The Morning I Fell in Love”, “For King and Country: Remembrance Day 2022 For my grandfather in loving memory”, “Remembrance” pp. 117-124).
Neither the author, nor his translator, Ms Yin, explore this (apparently shared) philosophy further in this book, but a possible small typographical error (or a work of the “collective unconscious”) may give the close reader of the book a clue where the poet and his translator “are coming from”. For the title of the poem for the book’s central figure of political philosophy is “Mandala”, not “Mandela” (p. 39), and, of course, the mandala is the “magic circle”, self-representation of a psychic process of centring, and production of a new centre of personality, in the psychology of Carl Jung, and it is a symbol that unites the cultures of East and West. Furthermore, it has been creatively used by scholars to throw light on the work of key authors in the Romantic tradition (see, for example, Professor Roderick Marshall’s study of the “earthly paradises” of William Morris).
Starlight Tapestry is a wonderful book that improves with every reading. The accessible style of the poetry, and clear organization of the text, make it a joy to read, and the cover and occasional illustrations fit in well with the spare, almost stark, poetic presentation. This book is ideal for Chinese readers wanting to sample Canadian poetry in English, as well as learn more about English literature in general. A sensitive and accurate account of a long life in Canada lived in the light of literature is given in this book, and it constitutes a real contribution to cross-cultural communication.
© Terry Barker
Terry Barker taught Canadian Studies at Humber College, Toronto, Canada, including for over a decade in a special program for international students from China. He currently is researching the origins of the Canadian national archetype of “The True North.”
Don Gutteridge was born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and raised in the nearby village of Point Edward. He taught High School English for seven years, later becoming a Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Ontario, where he is now Professor Emeritus. He is the author of more than seventy books, poetry, fiction and scholarly works in pedagogical theory and practice. He has published more than twenty novels including the twelve-volume Marc Edwards mystery series, and forty-four books of poetry, one of which, Coppermine, was short-listed for the 1973 Governor-General’s Literary Award. In 1970 he won the UWO President’s medal for the best poem of that year, “Death at Quebec”. Don currently lives in London, Ontario.