Daphne Marlatt’s Rivering is a recent addition to WLUP’s Laurier Poetry Series, a series of 90- page volumes of Canadian selected poems, each with an introduction and afterword, that series editor Neil Besner writes here that he hopes will do for Canadian poetry what the New Canadian Library “series has done ... for Canadian fiction” (ix). Like those of the New Canadian Library, the WLUP volumes appear to have been designed for academic sale – Besner describes using 10 of them himself in teaching a fourth-year poetry course, though at $16.99 a pop the ten would have put a serious dent in some of his students’ budgets. For the poets, the recognition implied by being included in the series may be more useful than any increase in readership. In Marlatt’s case, the selection does not seem to compete in any significant way with her previous books.
Marlatt is not an easy poet to select from, for an anthology or a ‘selected.’ She has usually published coherent books of interconnected poems, or ‘book-length poems’ as critics often say (as if 'book' were a stable measure), rather than collections, books that have often been held together in part by narrative, image, epistemological or linguistic threads – Frames of a Story (1968), Rings (1971), Steveston (1974), How Hug a Stone (1983), Touch to My Tongue (1984). In her afterword Marlatt writes of having been attracted to the poetry resources of prose – that what she has wanted to achieve in poetry seemed “more possible in the relatively open space of prose, but a prose that could meet poetry in its attentiveness to language” (63). The sentences of her novels have often seemed little different structurally from those of her poetry. I was once