SEYMOUR MAYNE: RICOCHET
1252 Speers Road
Units 1 & 2
ISBN 0 88962 837 8
SEYMOUR MAYNE: SEPTEMBER RAIN
ISBN 0 88962 859 9
SEYMOUR MAYNE: HAIL
Calle 48 entre 6 y 7
Piso 4 (Oficina 406)
(1900) La Plata
ISBN 987 22900 0 8
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|SEYMOUR MAYNE: RICOCHET|
This is an A5 perfect bound book of word sonnets. Poets for about the last 20-30 years in the UK have produced word sonnets and it has proved to be a very restricting form. It is extremely difficult to produce outstanding word sonnets, worthy of re-reading, as they tend to end up being one or two sentences written vertically with a line count of 14 with the 'so what' factor. Some do have more than one word to a line, but Mayne's word sonnets all have one word to the line as can be seen in DECEMBER FLIGHT:
These starlings swerve in flocks, turning their frantic wings towards the sun's slanting light.This word sonnet builds a laudable image. Nature is predominant in Seymour Mayne's word sonnets, as is a sense of spirituality, which is not commonly achieved in this form. JUNE HEAT sets a nature scene and focuses on light:
A flashback of snow shadows this thick lingering wind and curtain of humid light.
|reviewer: Doreen King.|
|SEYMOUR MAYNE: SEPTEMBER RAIN|
SEPTEMBER RAIN is Seymour Mayne's 29th volume of poetry since his first collection, THAT MONOCYCLE MOON appeared in 1964. Educated at the Talmud Torah in Montreal, Mayne is now a leading figure in Canadian and Jewish literature. Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Ottawa, Mayne is widely known for his works of literary translation and criticism. Co-founder of the small press Very Stone House, Maine has been dedicated to the promotion of Canadian poetry. His work has been translated into Spanish and Hebrew (he has a strong following in Spain and Israel) and it has recently been proposed that Mayne be considered for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
With such poetic antecedents, there is a heavy weight of expectation placed upon Maine's recent new offering SEPTEMBER RAIN. Unfortunately it appears that Mayne suffers from the sinecure of success and, in this collection, seems to be resting on his laurels. I'm afraid that this very slim volume (only 52 pages of actual poetry) disappoints. It is competently written, but is light weight and uninspiring — hardly the magnum opus of a Nobel Laureate in waiting.
The book is divided into four sections, the first has a seasonal theme; this is followed by poems about Spain and Israel. The final section is a memento mori, with poems dedicated to a variety of people, including Mayne's parents. One of the most affecting poems comes from this section. In MOTHER'S DAY Mayne writes of his mother's dementia:
Only broken sentences like thin branches tremble in the wind and all your quick stories lie embedded in stone-covered forgetfulness or silenceA proponent of the Word Sonnet (14 lines, one word per line), it is unsurprising that Mayne's poetry often assumes unconventional forms. Here, in ABOVE THE PUERTA, Mayne records the sinuous flight of a flock of birds:
Scattering above the Puerta de Almodovar loud formations of starlings rise over the palms, break into arcs, wheel back again towards the gravity of the tower.Mayne's style, in which he pares poems down to the bare essentials of subject matter, can sometimes work against him. In LA LAGUNA BEAUTY, a poem about an exceptionally beautiful woman, he gives no detail to explain what it is that makes her so desirable:
What secret pain and softness do you hide? A man could throw half his life away just to hold you in his arms one night through to the hastening dawn.Throughout the book there is a recurring theme of renewal — death and new life. This is brilliantly captured in HAIL which describes the burial of a keen gardener:
Hail peppered the air like seed as you were lowered below the frost line.It ends:
Will your green touch resuscitate unseen, healing a winter of silence?Poems like HAIL, BEGINNING and VESSELS are the highlights of this collection. These poems demonstrate Mayne's considerable poetic vision and technical skill.
Unfortunately, these poems are in the minority and much of SEPTEMBER RAIN is of a lesser standard. For a poet of such eminence, this is a disappointing collection. However, given Seymour Mayne's prodigious output, we will not have to wait long to discover whether he can regain his form.
|reviewer: Patrick B Osada.|
|SEYMOUR MAYNE: HAIL|
HAIL/GRANIZO is a small collection of word sonnets by Seymour Mayne in the original English with Spanish translations in practical classes in Literary Translation, in the Faculty of Humanities and Educational Sciences at the National University of La Plata, Argentina.
Word sonnets are a relatively new form of sonnet, being poems of 14 lines, with each line being made up of only one word. In a sense they combine elements of a traditional English language form with the brevity of Japanese forms such as haiku. Some of the word sonnets in this collection present the reader with beautiful imagery as in SEPTEMBER RAIN/LLUVIA DE SEPTIEMBRE:
If the maple trees could, they would dream of the healing entrance of May. Si los arces pudieran sonar, sonarian con la llegada sanadora del mes de mayo.This and other poems are beautiful, but I have to admit to not really entirely seeing what the form adds to the poem as a whole, particularly in the cases of poems with a lot of small words such as prepositions and conjunctions.
I don't speak Spanish, though I understand it broadly by extrapolating from Italian. I can't really therefore comment on the translations other than to say that its interesting to see how words fall differently in the two languages and also to highlight my favourite piece of translation:
Hail peppered the airbecomes in Spanish:
El granizo condimentaba el aireGranizo is somehow a perfect word for hail and the use of condimentaba seems to me to add another layer of meaning to the phrase.
I was really pleased to read these poems, as they use a form I have never come across before, which is always interesting.
|reviewer: Juliet Wilson.|