Poetry pot-of-gold

This Horizon and Beyond doesn’t disappoint as a compendium of great poetry. Canadian author and lawyer Nancy-Gay Rostein offers a thoughtful yet critical view of the world with her particular blend of free and metered verse poetry about topics from her own experiences. Familiar settings and the relative shortness of the poems let casual readers simply enjoy the works in bite-sized pieces while poetry buffs will find oblique but wonderful literary gems waiting to be discovered in the passages fortified with meaning.

Throughout the three sections of the book–which consists of works culled from her three previous poetry books–Rostein expertly confronts the subject with precision. At times she states the obvious, but in an non-obvious way. "Tuesday’s Rape," a poem that appears to be about power line workers removing intruding urban foliage, can also be read to describe industrial forestry.

Aside from literal contrasts, she often juxtaposes divergent ideas for added effect. In "The Choice," a poem about the winter thaw, she writes: "beside bursting ice-puzzles / and tulips, / pungent with birth"

By posing "pungent," a word easily associated with the smell of rotting and death, with an opposing word, "birth," she highlights the simultaneous destruction and rebirth observed in spring.

In the second section, "Compass Points," Rostein takes contrast and paradox even further by comparing her own experiences in post-cultural-revolution China in the 1980s with both life in Canada and some intimate views from around the world. She also uses the past–likely a product of her history degree–in an appropriate and mostly not intrusive way to deepen the meaning of some poems. In "St. John" where she describes a 1733 slave rebellion in the Virgin Islands, and in the section about China, she uses in slight excess references to historic writers, leaders and locations (all of which are sufficiently explained in included footnotes).

The final section, "The Cycle," consists of works Rostein wrote throughout a generation of her family but withheld for publication until complete as a unit. In "The Cycle," she explores aspects of family life, social conflict, growth and the mundane events of daily life as she experienced them in urban eastern Canada. She also maintains interest by using radical style shifts between poems.

In "Beach Day" and a few other poems, the basic nature of the event is reflected in the simplicity of the prose. "toddler crab crawls / onto slick water cot / appended to perfect pedicured toes / then rests dimpled cheeks / on freshly waxed legs"

This poem and the rest are excellent examples of contemporary poetry in modern settings, deserving at least one read.

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