Winner of the 2009 Atlantic Poetry Prize
Winner of the 2010 PEI Book Award for Poetry
When I was an English lit student at UPEI one of my favorite professors was Brent MacLaine. He has a genuine passion for literature that is infectious. Shades of Green is his third collection of poetry and at this point in his writing career his most successful, winning both the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the PEI Book Award. MacLaine’s writing is very reminiscent of poetry from the early part of the 20th century and the Confederation poets; many of his poems are homages to the Earth and very heavy on exploring nature. This book is the most visual and vivid of all of his collections. The way he uses the descriptions of colours, sights, and sounds in all of these poems, with both rural or urban settings, is intoxicating.
The poems are fairly traditional in structure and for the most part follow the time tested style of classic lyrics and odes. As you progress through the book you are taken through the landscapes of Prince Edward Island, examining mostly rural life (farming, wild life, etc.), and also walked through urban jungles. The urban poems are interesting, the tone is very similar to the rural ones, as I read these pieces I felt as if the author was trying to apply rural sensibilities to the big city. This was very well done.
The book is punctuated with beautiful semi-abstract oil paintings, which I think were done by MacLaine himself but don’t quote on me that. My favorite piece is the title poem which opens the book, “Shades of Green”. The first stanza draws you right in, especially if you read it this time of year:
First seen is last year’s green,
unsheathed by melting snow –
a dead blade stabbing into memory,
a tarnished green. Museum green.
Brent MacLaine is definitely one of PEI’s best contemporary writers, along with his co-worker Richard Lemm. Shades of Green is a great representation of both landscape poetry and Prince Edward Island as a whole. He writes with a painter’s eye; I think anyone who loves the rolling green landscapes of PEI would enjoy Shades of Green, not just the usual readers of poetry.