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78 LETTERS IN CANADA 1991 unusual in Canadian poetry, which tends to the rough-and-ready. Such uncommon care and reflection are the source, no doubt, of the high regard in which her work is held here. Avison has received much praise for the sophisticated metaphysics of her work and has been compared to the great 'metaphysical' poets of the seventeenth century. The writer who came to mind as I read this collection , however, was the Victorian Gerard Manley Hopkins, rather than any seventeenth-century poet. The passionate intricacy of syntax, especially , was reminiscent of Hopkins's sometimes anguished, sometimes ecstatic search for God. Avison shares this complex of faith and fear. The triumph of religious faith in her work, even more than its technical proficiency, is what makes Avison a poet unique among her contemporaries . I heard Avison read in fall 1991 in Toronto - a rare experience. Her speaking voice added nuances of humour and irony that I hadn't been careful enough to hear in my own silent reading. It reminded me of first hearing the American poet Marianne Moore read on a recording: what I had listened to internally with such high seriousness, dead seriousness, became alive with inflection, curiosity, wonder. Herein lies, perhaps, the flaw of the critical mind and the joy of the poetic. Drama JERRY WASSERMAN Is it just coincidence that in this time of constitutional crisis-driven national soul searching, in which the political process itself is revealed as theatre, the longest running show in town, Canadian playwrights appear to be (re)turning to history - and herstory - for their material, and to metatheatrics for their form and style? Conspicuous by its scarcity in the past year's published plays was the contemporary naturalism usually identified with English-Canadian drama. Instead, postmodern selfconsciousness and its accompanying stylistic eclecticism constructed a variety of historical reclamation projects, some personal and immediate, and a lot of them very good. Much of the exciting work came attached to familiar names, including Linda Griffiths, Allan Stratton, John Lazarus, and Wendy Lill. Among the less familiar, giving notice of major talent, were Robin Fulford, Djanet Sears, Beth Hurst, James O'Reilly, and Daniel Brooks and Guillermo Verdecchia. Largely unknown outside Toronto, co-writers (as well as co-directors and performers) Brooks and Verdecchia created the year's most extraordinary play, The Noam Chomsky Lectures (Coach House, 94, $9.95), a series of lectures based on Chomsky's assertion that the North American media DRAMA 79 'manufacture consent' by manipulating news (i.e., constructing history) to support the dominant ideology of big business and government. The bulk of examples and demonstrations in the published text pertain to the biases, distortions, omissions, and other rhetorical strategies employed in reporting on the Gulf War, Central America, and the Middle East. These are specific to the particular performance of which this text is a transcript; as voluminous footnotes illustrate, each run of the show is unique, reshaped as current events unfold. Besides indicting the media, Brooks and Verdecchia make two other very blunt points. The first is that 'we' are not just innocent bystanders in the cover-up of American crimes: 'the real Canadian traditions are quiet complicity and hypocritical moral posturing. This nation of quiet diplomats, of peacekeepers, is in fact a nation of quiet profiteers.' The second, related point is that everyone involved in Canadian theatre itself, on both sides of the stage, is complicit in 'our own collective moral hypocrisy and cowardice.' Their prescription is to have us all 'look at the world and the world of the theatre without ideological or artistic blinkers.' From this derives the play's radically Brechtian presentational technique and broad humour. As often as Brooks and Verdecchia draw earnest political science lessons from the theatre of the world as reported by the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star, they draw hilarious illustrations from the world of theatre, citing the distortions of those same papers' critics in (mis)shaping the perceptions of Toronto audiences. In a brilliant selfreferential vaudeville, they also deconstruct ideology and art - including their own - as two sides of the same theatrical coin. Demonstrating how captions can be used to mould reader response...


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