cover image At Lake Scugog

At Lake Scugog

Troy Jollimore. Princeton Univ., $35 (96p) ISBN 978-0-691-14942-4, $16.95 trade paper ISBN 978-0-691-14943-1

Jollimore's debut, Tom Thompson in Purgatory (2006), surprised almost all observers when it won the NBCC Award. This sophomore effort mostly continues in the first book's nervous, witty, self-conscious, at times self-despising modes. New sonnets about the character Tom Thompson indulge in light comedy ("Who'd I blurb? Or who did I let// blurb me?"), but retain the moving undertones of fear: "His curse,// which he curses with all his heart, is to hate this curs-/ ing, hating heart of his." Pantoun, epigram, terza rima, puns, and invented forms with new rhyming requirements make much of the volume a pleasure in terms of technique. Always clever, at times Jollimore can be merely clever, his search for a topic the only topic that can keep him on track. It is a kind of writing perfected already by an earlier generation, by John Hollander and Daryl Hine. Altogether different and hard to forget are the poems on which Jollimore concludes: stern, vulnerable, lyrical reactions to environmental peril. The 10-page "His Master's Voice," addressed apparently to a child, looks at the future of civilization, at our culpable arrogance, and at how "songs" might help set us right. (May)