Mary Walters's Reviews > Ex-Ville

Ex-Ville by Rhona McAdam
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Jan 06, 2015

it was amazing

I have been a fan of the poetry of Rhona McAdam since I read her first book, Hour of the Pearl, in the late 1980s. The oeuvre she has constructed in her five collections since has been consistently strong, and as the poet has matured, her poems have also grown in breadth and depth. Ex-Ville is a fine addition to her opus.

Ex-Ville is a book of recollections and reflections on times past. The poems range from memories of lost times and people gone forever, musings about or directed at past lovers, revisitings of past ironies, and moments of humour (may McAdam never lose her delicious sense of humour) and sorrow. One of my favourites in the collection, “Scatterling,” considers how after living for many years in London, even after a long time back in Canada small specks of her self must still be “caught in hedges” and in the memories of those she met and worked with in the U.K. It is a lovely poem steeped in loss but also in hope, its title a lovely example of McAdam’s gentle humour.

Rhona McAdam’s poetic strengths also include a talent for finding exactly the right few words to evoke a moment. Several times as I was reading Ex-Ville, I found myself taking a sharp breath of admiration at such magically exact images as this one at the start of “Howe Sound”:

Eagles form themselves
from the branches
of nearby trees; […]

Anyone who has ever watched a raptor lift away into the air will know this sight exactly.

McAdam is also a past master at finding true and familiar emotion in the observation of mundane detail, and as her writing has increased in depth, she has lost none of her light touch.

When you left, no one filled the feeders.
They rattled and blackened outside the windows.

Hummingbirds died that winter
for lack of you.

In Ex-Ville, McAdam takes on a formal structure only once, in the pantoum “High Tides.” That poem held me in its thrall for several readings, until its repeated first and final line (“This time of year the tides are never higher”) became like a line from a song that rose and fell softly somewhere in my head even when I wasn’t reading it.

McAdam’s poems are accessible and honest. If it’s been a while since you read a book of poems, Ex-Ville is an excellent place to revisit the pleasure that poetry can bring.
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Reading Progress

January 6, 2015 – Started Reading
January 6, 2015 – Shelved
January 6, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
March 12, 2015 – Finished Reading

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