Pender anthology: every bookshelf should have one

September 30, 2014

“They really are wonderfully fragile things that can lift people up out of the muck of everyday living…”

As a journalist, I have often been asked to do book reviews. I delight in ‘getting right inside the book’. My goal is always to say something refreshingly insightful about the book. I take care, I think, probably because I have authored books myself and know the insight-out process that churns out of the author. I am at my respectful best when I do book reviews.

Poetry, as you will be able to tell in the following piece, sits in a special place in my heart. I wrote poetry most often when my son was an infant. I took parenting seriously and found it a difficult time for me to work on long prose pieces.

Often I would collapse exhausted onto my bed for an afternoon nap when my baby was down for his. I would waken with a line of poetry hanging in my consciousness. Quickly, I would jump up off my bed and scribble the line down on a scrap of paper in the living room. This is how I built poems and stayed in touch with my creativity while I shouldered the responsibility of raising a child on my own. It was a meditative much needed rush, let me tell you.

Here is to poetry in this reprint of a poetry anthology review:

Gulf Islands Driftwood
August 2, 2000
Pender anthology: every bookshelf should have one
by Tanya Lester

Poetry on Pender Anthology 2000. Frimley Green Press, 2000. 68pp

Reading Poetry on Pender Anthology 2000remined me that poems are so very precious.

They really are wonderfully fragile things that can lift people up out of the muck of everyday living in which we so often find ourselves.

To balance a poem in the place where angels tread can be a difficult thing to do.

Among the lines in many of the anthology’s poems are numerous examples of how words can heighten feelings and clarify ideas. At their best, lines of poetry are fleeting strokes of genius.

In ‘Spindrift: Wallace Stevens and Kafka on Pender Island’, Bruce Burnett quotes Kafka:
“A book… Is an ax to smash the frozen sea within us.”

Pamela Barlow Brooks, the anthology’s editor and publishers, writes about the “ancient taste of marriage gone dry.”

The words contribute beauty to something as painful, and perhaps even boring, as crumbling relationship.

Mary Louis Martin’s words also make beauty out of something society often views as ugly — aging– when she writes:

her brown wrinkled skin displays
protruding green veins
contained rivers
and tributaries
on the back of her hands

This is precisely why we need poetry in our lives.

In Carol Christie’s ‘Haiku on Pender’, an “Old gull parades/on the worn railing/and burps indigestibles.” The image conjured up is comical in a beautiful sort of way.

As is Leslie McBain’s take on mestrual syndrome: “with moon flood boils visions/like sausages and whispers.” What a relief that McBain has the courage to write about these previously unmentionables that so many of us have suffered.

So is Bronwen Merle bold when she beings her poem with: “We are the Uproar of the Young.”

To dedicate a poem to American poet Anne Sexton in which a line refers to “renegade untidies” is another instance of Merle hitting the nail on the head.

Barry Mathias’ ‘When Summer Ends’ paints word pictures of autumn: “But the heat of love continues, an echo of spring in a warm bed./There is no telling when summer ends.”

At the end of each stanza, the reader’s feelings are diverted from sadness to happy security.

In Mathias’ Clayoquot, the poem’s conclusion is surprising as he compares clear-cutting old growth trees with “Our pitiful longevity/Our destructive nature/Our lack of roots.”

Some of the poems in this book refeshingly heighten the senses. In Jasinda, S.L. Wilde writes:
On the boat to Canada they
gave you jello…
Could this strange bright jewel
be eaten?
Glistening red like the pomegranates you ate.

Refreshing, too, is the inclusion of children’s poetry in this anthology. These young poets certainly hold their own.

In ‘Spring Cleaning’, Wilde’s daughter, nine-year-old Naomi vanGinkel Wilde writes:

The dancing rhythm of the wind
blowing away the autumn leaves
In a flurry of bronze and lemon flames.
The wind is cleaning away winter
The wind is getting the world ready
for spring.

Katherine Searle, age 15m refers to “the only thing stronger that love…this, of course, is friendship.”

In Paradise, nine-year-old Natasha Lee O’Reilly penned:

In the field the ladybug is sitting
on two pieces of grass.
When she flies away a new baby
is born into the hands of its new mother and father.
The ladybug will do this again and again.

Where do these young people get their insight?

It is a pleasure to experience this new take on life throught their poetry contibutions.

It is also a pleasure to feel the rhythm in some of the anthology’s pieces. Mary Louise Martin’s Ms Mauli Crow— Procrastination Adventure is a prime example and one filled with humour: “she mowing the lawn for starters little bits and pieces of short green grass.”

Poetry, though, is more than stinging words together. It is not about expressing ideas in the same old way.

The poems that do not hold up quite so well in this anthology are the ones that have this tendency. It should be pointed out, however, that Brooks included pieces from everyone who submitted to the anthology. To include a poet’s work no matter how far along they are in their craft is commendable.

There are also a couple of other small faults. The book’s title could have been more poetic especially since there is such a wealth of wonderful words from which to draw from here.

The title does, however, make clear as to what will be found inside, which is important from a marketing point of view.

Brooks is quite right, too, when she proclaims in her introduction that, “There is no doubt these poems are originals. Each one was written on Pender.”

It also would be nice to have short biographies included to shed some light on the poets’ backgrounds and other writing credits.

For the most part, this anthology is beautiful on both the inside and out. The poems can be read and re-read for their loveliness.

Michael J. Rudd’s book design, in wispy ink strokes, enhances the quality of the poems in that it is understated in its elegance. It is a work of fine visual art to complement the written art. Never does it detract from the words.

This anthology will be a wonderful addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

To read the first posts in this blog, go to
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Readerby Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the title and author name to read the first few pages and buy it at


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