The Essential James Reaney

The Essential James Reaney
Selected by Brian Bartlett

The latest in what has thus far been an exceptional series of Essential Poets published by Porcupine’s Quill distils the long and prolific poetic career of James Reaney down to a manageable 60-page selection. Condensing so many years into so short a space has a kind of time-lapse photography effect, allowing the reader to watch Reaney’s poetry develop from the precocious, and sometimes a bit heavy, self-consciousness of The Red Heart to the more free-wheeling experimentation and jokiness of his later years, while observing throughout an energetic imaginative consistency. The doodles that are included don’t really add anything, indeed I think they probably subtract from the overall effect, but this is still a worthy addition to an essential collection.