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Native Song: Poetry & Paintings

David Woods (Nimbus)

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With this second edition of Native Song, Halifax author and painter David Woods goes all in and the result doesn't show in his favour. Too often this finished book reads like a notebook (though it's not identified as such), full of unfinished, unformed ideas---beginnings of larger ideas or expanded forms. For example, while the section called "Voices" offers some short, sharp style and witty observations of human behaviour, the pieces read as rough character sketches and fragments belonging to a whole unseen to the reader. A pagination error, with two sections, "Voices" and "The Derby Tavern," listed as starting on the same page in the table of contents, underscores the feeling that there's too much confusion caused by wanting to show more material from his emerging stage (the purpose stated in the Author's Note).

The strength of Woods' writing lies in his prose-poetry, when he's setting scene, placing character within it and telling a bit of a story: "The Derby Tavern" cycle, or the poem, "Conversation with Gilbert," occasions when his gaze rests awhile to focus on who's there and what's happening and why. Of Woods' paintings, the representational portraits and high realist scenes are resolved and evocative of people, experiences and stories.

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