Skip to main content
the daily review, wed., aug. 4

George Sipos

Asked about the sources of his poetry in an interview in December, 2007 , George Sipos replied, "Apart from Sawmill Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and a certain propensity for melancholy, the fuel is the usual stuff: weather, the changing seasons, the simultaneous erosion and recrudescence of memory, love (remembered, hypothesized or actual), loss, the quirks of the ear and of the mind."

The Glassblowers, Sipos's second collection of poetry, does indeed have a melancholic cast. Sipos writes poetry that is pretty much an equal mix of doubt and wonder; poetry about "[h]w it feels still to be alive" ( Speechless), to be "caught between faith and doubt." ( Cloud Chamber).

Sipos now lives on beautiful Salt Spring Island off the coast of BC, and his gaze tends towards the interplay of the human with the natural. He seems particularly interested in those nuanced spaces - gardens, backyards, fields - that mediate between the civilized and the wild. There are readers, myself among them, who get a bit cranky with conventional nature poetry that romanticizes the purity of the wilderness while neatly evading the corrupt complexity of the social. Sipos doesn't have much truck with romanticization, and is quite content to poke fun at our pretensions to the sublime: "That there is nothing to see/ is the last thing we want to admit,/ we who are here to scan the sky after too much wine and lamplight./ We should see Atlantis tonight, someone/ with a napkin said" ( The Astronomers).

Only rarely does Sipos miss the mark, in those infrequent moments when his intended conceptual reach exceeds his expressive grasp. His discerning attunement to "the quirks of the ear and of the mind" results in a technical brilliance, a stunning and affecting control of diction, syntax and tone that immediately engages the reader's intellect as well as emotion.

In his examination of how the perceiving self is present in the created world, Sipos tends generally to avoid, or at least delay, the presence of the first person "I", inhabiting instead a general "you" or the plural "we," which sometimes represents the lovers in the poem, sometimes a more expansive human "we".

This pronoun choice feels at times evasive, though my guess is that it reflects Sipos's concern with avoiding the solipsism to which such internally driven poems may be prone. In the interview, Sipos comments that "[t]e challenge is not to forget the bigger world, both geographically and mentally, while working on an island that constantly proclaims itself as self-contained."

Although there are points in the book at which the interiority of perspective does begin to feel insular, more often Sipos redeems these quiet meditations by looking out and beyond the self. Most readers will find themselves more than satisfied with the adroit intellect and sensual richness of these poems, which generate "a heat which draws the mind/ out beyond the window" of perception ( Montford Field).

Rhea Tregebov is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently (alive): Selected and new poems. In the fall of 2009 her first novel, The Knife Sharpener's Bell, was caught and released by Coteau Books.

Interact with The Globe