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Comment / Review

Michael Redhill
from the "Introduction" to Blues & True Concussions : Six New Toronto Poets. Selected and Introduced by Michael Redhill; Foreword by Dennis Lee; Afterword by Shawn Conway. Toronto : Anansi, 1996, p xiii-xiv

Way back before it became extremely cool, I recall standing in the darkened main room of Bar Italia on College Street listening to Eddy Yanofsky read from his new book, In Separate Rooms. It was a crisp fall day, and as we listened to the poet's depictions of the city and the intimacy of kitchens, memories of a Montreal childhood and jazz-rooms, a kind of warm nostalgia overtook the room, even for the places that were right there, outside the door in the streets of our own city.

Yanofsky's work is shot through with the twin drives of sadness and pleasure, and they have always been poems for me that expose, in a seemingly simple way, the emotional roots of place. Yanofsky, a transplanted Montrealer, is a city poet in the tradition of Souster and Layton, and the presence of the city in Yanofsky's poems is not only as a character or a backdrop, but also as the site of a subjective reality, complicated by the poet's reactive glance. So the speaker in "The Gap" observes a city commonplace -- a person covered by blankets in a doorway -- and slips with no apparent transition to the internalization of his reaction. Yanofsky doesn't turn away and weep (à la Layton), nut wants, suddenly, to kick the hell out of anything in his way. Here, there is no larger moral agenda; the voice in Yanofsky's poetry is frequently so overwhelmed by what it sees that it's only possible to react. In "Two Days to January," he writes of a "dysfunction in the brain" and his inability to stave off the "unwilled reunions" a walk in the city provokes. This is a voice utterly joined to the life of the city. Yanofsky does not stand back and pontificate, he draws you in to the streets and voices with him.

In Other poems Yanofsky is the lover holding back on love, or the grown man looking back on rude health. In poems like "Solarium" and "Chai", he captures in gently persuasive lyrics the hope of ongoing life and love, and these are poems that offer the reader incomplete solace with a kind of graciousness that is rare to uncover among new poets.

Eddy Yanofsky's works copyright © to the author.

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