Poetry Review — Sightlines

Sightlines by Henry Beissel
Sightlines by Henry Beissel is his seventeenth collection of poetry. Beissel had a long teaching career in English literature, and later in creative writing, which started as a teaching fellow at the University of Toronto. He taught at the University of Munich (1960–62)), the University of Alberta (1962–64) and Concordia University (Montreal) (1966–96), from which he retired as distinguished emeritus professor of English.

2016 has been an outstanding year in poetry and Sightlines earns itself a spot among the best of the year. The poems start with the poet’s old home in the woods and fills the reader’s mind with imagery of nature. There is an easy connection with the poet’s words and experience in nature. It is a poetic Walden. The reader is simply left in awe of the descriptions and experience. Sightlines is more than the trees and nature too:

For more than three decades Orion visited our sleep with his star-spangled sword, Jupiter and Mars wander up and down the shingled roof while Sun and Moon painted fleeting patterns across the pond.

Poems that focus on nature also include our intrusion on the land:

Profit is the world’s executioner. Cats and dozers erase forests, steel traps eliminate wolf and beaver, rifles exterminate bear and moose. We poison and plunder all habitats as if we owned them…

The poems change geographically but maintain the same descriptive force. Venice, Mexico and space are covered as well as a few passing references to dinosaurs. Beissel has grandchildren he writes for in this collection and there is no noticeable difference in the poetry’s composition, just the subject. Retirement has allowed Beissel to recall and share some fond memories of his life. The collection is open verse and welcoming to readers of either poetry or prose. This is a collection that any reader can fall into and enjoy the comfort of well-written poetry.

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