Articles & Reviews

Barry Dempster, review of Family Album, The League of Canadian Poets, Museletter, Spring 1993

Stephen Morrissey's third collection, Family Album , is a remarkably unique book. The poems are most often short and raw, always deceptively simple, concentrating on the poet's past, a sense of grief and isolation looming over everything. It's the way Morrissey manages to suggest the unsaid ("everything revealed/that I intended/to hide"), sometimes the unspeakable, that makes Family Album so mesmerizing. Despite its mere sixty-one pages and its copious amounts of white space, the book manages to be a complete history of too many silences and too much loss. The death of a father, the distance of a brother, the failures of a cousin, the subjects sound like the kind of grisly family narratives that might have inspired Philip Larkin's This Be the Verse . But Morrissey is so immersed in whatever emotion is being examined, from sorrow to ambivalence, that the poems are more states of being than snapshots or anecdotes. Sometimes the effect is almost immeasurable ("what is it/we've become/no-one the/six year old child would recognize"), just a vague feeling deep inside that a stone, or coin, has hit the bottom of a well. Family Album isn't just memoir, but an attempt to say aloud what this particular family has never been able to say before, a leap across years of empty space.

Copyright © 2003 The author