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Mountain Tea    by Peter Van Toorn order for
Mountain Tea
by Peter Van Toorn
Order:  USA  Can
Véhicule Press, 2004 (1984)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Peter Van Toorn, a Canadian born in Holland, first published Mountain Tea in 1984. The title poem is one of a wonderful Mountain series, including Mountain Love - 'to have it bad; / to feel it kick in your guts; to go mad; / sorry again, sober, chaste, serious, / but deep down, bored, gored, ignored, furious' and Mountain Wine - 'Friends and cold wine float your heart to your face.'

I must say that I found some of the verses impenetrable, but especially enjoyed those with nature and wilderness themes like a remarkable long poem on mating Dragonflies, Those Bluejays of the Water - 'Stuck that way, they had coptered over water for hours, / looking for a bed to land on / and connect the proper lines.' I was amused by Pigeon Feeder - 'Who are you putting on, pigeon man / fisting it out like frisbees with bare hands? / What's in it for you when it's done? / Ever get any laughs from your fans?'

There's also humor in Shake'N Bake Ballad, which lists the most remarkably vile things to 'shake'n bake their envy-schooled tongues' (I was left very curious about what those tongues had uttered to get such a reaction). Elegy on War: Invention of the Sword is sadly topical. Icarus Like Crane brilliantly describes the Canadian city in winter - 'The blizzard's lost its teeth, snow shawls the ground / and ghouls the city's park-bronze.'

There's an impressive range in this collection, both in poetic styles and in themes - of love, death, and nature in all its seasons and expressions, wind and weather (I recommend reading the verses aloud to feel the rhythms). If you enjoy both poetry and nature, then you'll find much to savor in Mountain Tea.

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