Articles & Reviews

Review of Stephen Morrissey's Family Album

Morrissey, Stephen.
Family Album.
The Caitlin Press, 1989.
64p. $8.95pa.
CCIP. DDC C811'.54.

Review By William Blackburn
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1990

The poems by Stephen Morrissey that are collected here would serve very well to illustrate Ernest Hemingway's remark that "families have many ways of being dangerous." Not, however, that the author is ever strident or melodramatic; his taste is rather for laconic understatement and the quiet, unremitting observation of bleak fact. Nor does he attempt the Keatsian impossibility of refining himself out of existence; the unity underlying this series of family memories is the unflinching recognition of the fact that "grief anchors us to points in time" and that we define ourselves through our experiences of loss. Morrissey's observation that "we become our inheritance" sums up the process by which we come to full consciousness in confronting a world of separation, privation, and death: "Cycles of death / That's all we know." The author's persona, in seeking to revisit the events of his childhood, cannot evade the sense of estrangement at the heart of awareness: "What is it/ we've become / No one the / six year old / child would recognize." Family Album is wonderfully free of the facile pyrotechnics of grief and optimism alike; Morrisey's deft eye, along with his spare and certain style, demands of his readers the emotional honesty and intensity he so obviously brought to writing these

William Blackburn

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