Arrivals and Departures
by Nina Berkhout
Finalist 2011 Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry
Berkhout’s Arrivals and Departures is a charming, compelling poetic journey that depicts a relationship as it transitions toward its end. The book is a poetic sequence broken into three parts: the first is concerned with the speaker alone in her home, constantly reminded of her lost love; the second recalls the trip to Prague that culminated in the break up; and the third sees the speaker back home, transitioning toward acceptance. Imparted in each carefully crafted piece of the sequence is a sense of the quiet, intense, fully present moment in which the speaker resists her impending solitude.
The poems work best embedded in the sequence. Their part within the whole allows the echoes throughout the collection to properly reverberate. One such echo is the idea of order and purpose within chaos. “Everything has an order,” Berkhout writes, “Five years ago your eyes / crashed into me with more force / than a ship-breaking yard.” Because readers know the relationship will end in the Prague section, and because it was described with such raw force earlier, the sense of understatement is more powerful at the breakup itself: “You choose a pretty ending for us. / On a day of touring castles / your confession blossoms / from your perfect mouth: / a flower’s dark centre.” This collection has the compelling raw emotion of works like Elizabeth Smart’s By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.
Susie DeCoste, Transitions in Poetry
Canadian Literature #212 (Spring 2012)
(online review accessed December 29, 2012)