It is a challenge of obdurate proportions, not to feel educated, cultured and intelligent when succumbing to the charms of Susan Glickman’s reviews and essays, such is the poise with which she positions her analytical powers and witty observations throughout the wondrous compendium which is Artful Flight. Both her wide range of subject matter and trail of observations do indeed artfully mirror the other. For example, in her twelve-page deep dive into the impressive output of Don Coles, All in War with Time she observes that “Coles tries for a balance between his two voices, giving equal time to the two prosodies of American modernism: the T.S. Eliot line of retrospective, if experimental, formalism and the W.C. Williams line of idiomatic revolt against convention. His aesthetic is defined by the area between his versions of these two – a fairly small one to be sure, with eloquence as the common priority of both styles.”
In her exploration of Bronwen Wallace, “Angels Not Polarities”, she observes, in comparison to Wordsworth’s “a man talking to men” that “women are less likely to speak in generalities and abstractions such as ‘the child is father of the man’; they are more likely to focus on how the boy’s childhood habit of picking the chocolate chips out of his cookies and counting them to see what the average number was foretold in his adult career with Statistics Canada.” With such witty and incisive commentary and a seemingly bottomless ability to quote from any era of English literature to bolster a point, Glickman canters along smoothly and sometimes merrily, always maintaining a respectful attitude to the work and words of the poet, extensively quoting the lines themselves. A verse from Robyn Sarah should suffice:
“with a child asleep in her lap, saying loudly Here’s how it is, if I can’t spend a year on a houseboat on the rivers of China, I want at least to throw out all my clothes and get a good haircut.”
If the extended deliberations of the essays seem too steep a climb, then the occasional essays of the section “The Self in the World” might just be your cup of tea: “There are a heck of a lot of opinions out there. Some days they come at you thick as blackflies over Lac Ouareau on a July afternoon. (…) You can swim out to the dock to work on your tan, you can bury your head in an Agatha Christie novel so venerable that it has lost its cover and smells not of paper but wood smoke and mildew, but unless you stay under water holding your breath, you just can’t escape the plague of modern opinions. (…) I should know, I trace my descent from givers of advice both requisitioned and unsolicited, a wiggly conga line of doctors and social workers and other avatars of professional wisdom.” Artful Flight feels to me like some boundless lake of meditation and reflection, in which I continue to take refreshing plunges after all these weeks.