Review of Divisions,
The Monitor (Montreal)
August 21, 1984
Much contemporary poetry is obscure and difficult for the average person who may not have read any poetry since leaving school. This is not the case of Stephen Morrissey's new book of poetry, Divisions, published by the Coach House Press of Toronto. Morrissey is a Montreal born poet who grew up in NDG where he lived until recently.
Divisions is one of those rare books of poetry in which the poet's voice is clear and strong. It is not difficult poetry but at the same time it is not superficial. Morrissey is talking about important things in his life: the death of a parent, growing up, feelings of alienation, but also of joy and the resolution of conflict. This book is also of particular interest to the West End resident because of its frequent references to parks, streets and places of interest that we, who live here, take for granted.
The book has been very well received by the critics but Morrissey is still not well enough known by Montrealers. The important McGill professor and poet Louis Dudek, who reviewed Divisions on the CBC radio programme "Home Run", wrote in the Montreal Gazette, "Stephen Morrissey's Divisions is one of the most moving confessional poems I know." Northrop Frye, the famous Blake scholar and world class critic, has written, "Divisions... I found extremely powerful, at once visionary and movingly personal." These are strong words for a poet who attended Willingdon, Rosedale, and then Monklands High School in the 1950s and 1960s.
Apparently, English Montreal is still turning out poets who speak for their community. We have always been a highly creative community, for instance many of Canada's most talented writers and poets are Montreal born and bred; one thinks of Frank Scott, John Glassco, and Mordechai Richler. The English-speaking poet in Quebec asserts the creative and dynamic role of the English language in this province today. We should support our poets and writers better not only because they try to write that which is important and essential in our everyday life, but also because they are, by the very act of writing in English, maintaining the culture and traditions of the English community in Quebec.
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