Persons Real and Supposed

Passport

By Bert Almon

A review of Passport by Angela Hibbs

Published on March 1, 2007

Passport
Angela Hibbs

DC Books
$16.95
paper
88pp
978-1897-1901-2-8

Newfoundland is the site for much of Angela Hibbs’s Passport. The local colour is there (drowning is a motif) but incidental to an account of growing up poor in a dysfunctional family. The relationships across the generations are so complicated that a chart would have been useful. Hibbs gets the atmosphere of poverty in strong images: cigarettes rolled in paper torn from pharmacy flyers, the carton of milk stretched to last four days, the way that “mold coughed up from under the linoleum when it rained.” But the family ties – sometimes nurturing, sometimes oppressive – are crucial. Grandparents, mother and stepfather emerge in vivid detail, with bitterness and tenderness alternating or mingling. The portrait of the mother, who joined the army to escape Newfoundland, is particularly subtle. The narrator clearly loves her but shows that love can be oppressive. The dazzling “Egyptology” describes the process of mummification and then imagines mummifying the mother, replacing her heart as the Egyptians did. Mummification can be horrifying to us, but was actually an act of filial piety. The piety and the horror are both present in the level tone of the poem. Judging from the internal evidence of the poetry and the frankness of the back jacket copy, the person in these poems is not a supposed person, but she and her relatives are brilliant creations. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.

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