Reviewed by Mark McCawley
This particular review is as much about one’s literary influences as it is about the two long poems in question. Growing up and becoming a writer in Alberta, in the early 1980s, one could not help but be influenced by the writings of Robert Kroetsch. His influence was on the wind and in the words of so many writers, it would impossible to name them all in this review. Lest to say, generations of Alberta and Western Canadian poets and fiction writers have been influenced by his works. That he has become a fully fledged Canadian literary icon is really no surprise, either, considering his wide influence upon Canadian Literature, in general. On a more personal level, though, Robert Kroetsch came to my personal rescue in September of 1990, rescuing my then Canada Council sponsored reading (at the last minute) by swearing to the CC jury the validity of the press that had published my book. Indeed, a unique gesture from a poet and writer, who up until that time, I had never once met face-to-face. Thus the unique tapestry of literary influences in the overall Canadian mosiac – the closer one looks, the more one examines, the more intriguing are the literary influences.
Case in point – Amanda Earl’s The Sad Phoenician’s Other Woman. In her homage to Robert Kroetsch’s “The Sad Phoenician”, Earl’s long poem reminisces about the exploits and romantic conquests of a woman who loved adverbs (in as much as she loved men) marks a striking contrast to Kroetsch’s poem:
“love hurt him; don’t I know how he felt; just ask me”, “I, The Sad Phoenician of Love, slighted by the woman”
The poet in “The Sad Phoenician” takes on the role of cuckold, lamenting his cuckolding by the women he has known: the girl from Swift Current, the woman from Montreal, yet not once in the poem is there such a word as it applies to women. No wonder the woman from Swift Current had a thing for adverbs, like Amanda Earl. It’s at this point that these two long poems begin to depart, allegorically.