Saskatoon StarPhoenix Review of In the Tiger Park

Rich Writing by Saskatchewan Authors
Reviewed by: Winnipeg Free Press

In the Tiger Park (Coteau, 72 pages, $17) is Saskatoon raised Alison Calder's second collection of poems, and it again exhibits her fascination with the incongruous, the unlikely, the absurd all around her.

In the opening sequence, Blind children at the Natural History Museum, 1913, children discover the world through their fingers and surprise their sighted minders with their insights, their vision. On finding P.K. Page's old clothes is a rebuke to those who would hang onto something as intimate as clothing simply because it belonged to a famous person, while Simile, in a way oddly mirroring the previous poem, struggles with looking for the right way to describe an experience: A surplus of information in the one, a dearth in the other.

In the incisively observed Don't think of an elephant, Calder points out the statistical impossibility of finding an elephant in just about any part of the world, "yet the first bomb dropped on Berlin in World War II/killed the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo." This sort of information is grist for Calder's absurdity mill, and she closes the poem with one of the best line breaks around.

She casts that same eye for the out of place on herself in China, on just about all humans in the Arizona desert - i.e. You don't belong here - and again on human endeavour in the Manitoba flood poem Riverrise: "Earth's shape emerges, mapped in water."

Three poems - Sad Steps, After the disaster, and The dead - in the book's last section address that classic human absurdity, life itself: Its brevity, and its ferocious meaning. In a book full of human foibles, these three poems ache with humanity.

Reviewed by Bill Robertson. Read the full article on


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