UQP, 94 pp, $14.95 pb
The immediate virtues of this book are not difficult to see: Andrew Taylor is a skilled poet who understands the workings of syntax and rhythm, and who knows how to shape his poems into unified patterns with an apparent minimum of fuss. The poems tend to have a regular and easy pace; their fluency is considerable. Taylor writes with a genuine confidence and a literary awareness which is for the most part sophisticated and supple. His diction is uniform and he is careful not to overreach himself. There is no visible strain in the whole performance.
All this may sound like a recipe for success, and perhaps it is. But I should say I found Travelling a disappointing and often frustrating read. In his quest for the polished and well-made poem, Taylor runs the risk not just of etiolating the particular experiences which inform the writing but (what in fact adds up to the same thing) of producing a brand of writing whose art is not vibrant or varied enough to communicate ideas and experiences in any primary way. Poetry is of course a skilled activity, but at this level of expression skill becomes an abstraction: it is a necessary but not in itself sufficient quality, and durable poetry will always be greater than the sum of its technical parts.