Plans Deranged by Time
The Poetry of George Fetherling
Paper 82 pp.
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The Toronto Star called him a legendary figure in Canadian writing, and indeed George Fetherling has been prolific in many genres: poetry, history, travel narrative, memoir, and cultural studies. Plans Deranged by Time is a representative selection from many of the twelve poetry collections he has published since the late 1960s. Like his novels and other fiction, many of these poems are anchored in a sense of place—often a very urban one. Filled with aphorism and sharp observation, the poems are spare of line and metaphor; they display a kind of elegant realism: loading docks, back doors of restaurants, doughnut shops with karate schools upstairs.
In the introduction, A.F. Moritz places Fetherling in the modern picaresque tradition in the aftermath of Eliot and Pound, highlighting his characteristic speaker as an itinerant cosmopolitan outsider, a kind of flâneur, impoverished and keenly observant, writing from a position of “communion-in-isolation.” He contrasts Fetherling’s contemplative intellectualism with that of the public intellectual and highlights this outsider’s fellow-feeling, making the poems indirectly political.
Fetherling’s afterword is an anecdote-anchored exploration of what the poet sees as his two central approaches—“the desire to create new codes of hearing” and “writing-to-heal”—and how they are reflected in the collection.
George Fetherling has been writing and publishing for more than forty-five years. One of his most popular works is Travels by Night: A Memoir, which recreates leading personalities and events in the fabled Canadian cultural renaissance of 1965–75. His most recent books are The Sylvia Hotel Poems and the novel Walt Whitman’s Secret, both published in 2010. Fetherling is also a visual artist.
A.F. Moritz has published more than twenty collections of poetry as well as important works of literary history and numerous translations of Latin American verse. A leading figure in the literary life of Canada, he has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a major award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Two of his most recent works have reaffirmed his reputation: Night Street Repairs (2004) received the ReLit Award and The Sentinel (2008) won both the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He teaches at the University of Toronto.
“[Fetherling’s] images are not simply precise and evocative; they are also witty.... Many of his poems tend toward aperçu or epigram. The reader is constantly surprised by an unexpected analogy. Moritz in his erudite and densely allusive introduction...bring[s] out those elements of Fetherling’s critical self-examination that underlie his empathy for members of the similarly disillusioned wider community, and makes a good case for recommending Fetherling’s poetry to the expanded audience it deserves.”
— Event (Douglas College)