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Book Reviews

Black River

by Kenneth Sherman

If Wayman is a verbal spendthrift, Toronto poet and professor Kenneth Sherman, in his 11th book, errs on the side of laconic sparseness. Black River is one long poem, a suite in 60 parts about the titular river. The book falls into the CanLit category of “meditation,” but manages to eschew most clichés of the genre. The poem is densely allusive, and, at its best, Sherman’s free verse is subtly musical. Although lines occasionally crackle with clusters of sound, and the poet’s tone can get bitingly satirical, I was left wondering if there weren’t more rapids in the actual Black. Also, despite the terseness of Black River, we catch the poet straining at times to convey historical data where imaginative vision might have worked better, and Sherman – more like Boyd than like Wayman – tends to telegraph his political messages. Still, the cumulative impression left by this river voyage through time is a haunting one.