Select one of the keywords
Mirabel    by Pierre Nepveu order for
by Pierre Nepveu
Order:  USA  Can
Véhicule Press, 2004 (2004)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Quebec's international airport at Mirabel has long been scorned by locals as an exorbitant white elephant and blight on the countryside that absorbed far too many tax dollars, to no purpose. Pierre Nepveu addresses the impact of this fiasco, what it meant to the countryside and farming communities, in his free verse collection, Mirabel, translated from the French by Judith Cowan.

The collection is divided into three parts - 'Approach Paths', 'Mirabel' and 'Return'. I found the Author's Note at the back of the book, as interesting as the poetry. In it, Nepveu tells us that Mirabel's construction brought about the expropriation of 'an enormous tract of land' (ten times more than needed) and swallowed 'thousands of modest farms situated on very fertile land.' The airport was announced in 1969, inaugurated in 1975, under-used, and left empty in 2002. Pierre Nepveu calls it 'a preposterous monument to bureaucratic and governmental incompetence.'

I liked his 'New World': 'In these once seigneurial regions / of ancient orchards and luminous acres, / the century unfolded without incident ... but on an afternoon in spring / the future's trumpets blared'. The poet takes different perspectives, including those of a surveyor's notes and a cleaning woman's diary. Verses that appealed to me most spoke of nature as in 'the quintessential autumn magic' addressed in 'Living Twilight'; 'The Man of the Land', portrayed 'alone / with the wind and his encyclopedia / of birds and flowers'; and 'Last Visit' in which 'lost wild geese / settle softly on the empty runway'.

In its original (French) publication, the collection won Canada's Governor General's Award and the International Poetry Festival's Grand Prize in 2003. And Judith Cowan won the 2004 Governor General's Literary Award for Translation. Mirabel is a fascinating example of poetry as a vehicle for environmental and social commentary.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews