cover image A TALL, SERIOUS GIRL: Selected Poems 1957–2000

A TALL, SERIOUS GIRL: Selected Poems 1957–2000

George Stanley, ; edited by Larry Fagin and Kevin Davies. . Qua Books, $25 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-9708763-2-4

Associated with the San Francisco circle of poets around Jack Spicer, Stanley moved to British Columbia in 1971, all but removing himself from American attention, but allowing him to develop into a poet into with a unique, exquisite breadth of reference—and paradoxically, a matchless elegist of San Francisco. "Opening Day" features the "Roman mob" of Candlestick Park, triumphing "not over me, not over my, mine/ mind/ not over mind/ but over darkness, iso-/ lation, as the staring/ of windows, the eyes of cars/ & streetcars/ & most of all the Victorians,/ crouched in jealous rows on the hills/ tall dark rooms we had stayed in/ too long/ now out in the sun!" The recent, affectingly detailed verse memoir "San Francisco's Gone" evokes the city as birthplace, intellectual home and civic entity with a lucidity that extends to poems written in that other western paradisium, Vancouver: "It's pretty shitty/ living in a Protestant city/ & my heart too bleak for self-pity." But it is perhaps in the northern city of Terrace, at the ragged edge of resource capitalism—("coal dust on leaf & air, in/ nostril & ear, 500 mile long smudge") that Stanley's deeply personal yet cumulatively panoramic vision of North American life, with ancestral Ireland never far from the background, coheres. A sense of continually unfolding delight and mounting intellectual astonishment is abetted by elegant packaging, and deft arrangement of these 63 poems (from two to 21 pages) by Fagin (I'll Be Seeing You) and Davies (Comp.). The results show Stanley's work to be worth more to both sides of the border than softwood lumber or even the Stanley Cup. (May)