Cottage country cornucopia

Taproot II: Prose and Images from the Eastern Townships

A review of Taproot II: Prose And Images From The Eastern Townships by Edited By Brenda Hartwell

Published on April 1, 2003

Taproot II: Prose And Images From The Eastern Townships
Edited By Brenda Hartwell

Townshippers' Association

This book has proven to be a pleasant surprise. Often anthologies of authors from a particular area try to include only works which are directly connected to it, with the selection based more on that criteria than on literary merit. This is not true of Taproot II. The stories range from New York to the Okanagan to the Isle of Iona in Scotland. The poetry, although often referring to the countryside and its particular set of scenes, sings off the page with no referent other than the human condition. The anthology has comething for everyone – the variety and high quality of most of the works it contains will please any discerning reader. (A special nod to the excellent and varied photography and to a fine woodcut by Jori Baldwin.)

With 36 writers and 12 visual artists represented it is impossible to mention everything, so I’ll stick to my favourites. Of the stories, the two I found most moving and interestingly written are about elderly women. Anne F. Holloway, in her “A Chair by the Window,” does an excellent job of guiding us through the mind of a woman presumably suffering from Alzheimer’s, or at the very least advanced senility. Although we are moved higgledy-piggledy through various stages of the woman’s life, we are always connected to her concerns. One minute she may be looking out the window, the next she may be driving down a road years earlier with her daughter, or being rushed from a burning home by her father. There is a central concern which comes even more insistently – her mother’s suicide by hanging. Another story that must be mentioned is “Yom Kippur.” Not, despite its title, a religious tale, it deals with the memory of guilt and the decision to finally assuage it.

Along with these two excellent stories there are a couple of humourous tales, and a slightly surreal one which dabbles in the realm of “writing about writing.” There isn’t a bad story in the lot.

The one piece of travel journalism is Louise Abbott’s “The Thin Air of Iona.” Flanked by two of her excellent photographs, it captures the rhythm of life on this Scottish island. Abbott also captures a time in her life when she found herself, not through ancestry but through the simplicity and beauty of Iona itself.

As I have said, variety is the name of the game here and the poetry, although frequently using rural images, ranges in theme and style. One of my short favourites is a catalogue poem, ‘Place Names”:

Coa ti cook
Land of Pines
Ya mas ka
River of Toads
Mas sa wippie
Deep waters
Me gan tic
Fields of fish
Last traces of the first peoples
The sounds familiar to my ear.

There are other more ambitious pieces including “Unsure Season” by Ann Scowcroft:

Up along the eastern fenceline
I notice a fluid
ripple of white, an incongruous
as if the land was remember
ing August and the release
of silky milkwood parachutes.

Anther two I particularly liked were “Companion” by Pamela Dillon and Frank Willdig’s “Prospero’s Farm, November” with its play on The Tempest. There are many good poems which could have been better with more of an editor’s hand, or with a bit more craft added to the imagination. However, you won’t be disappointed if you pick up this anthology in your local bookstore. mRb

Lucille King-Edwards is co-proprietor of The Word bookstore.



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