Canadian poet and short story writer Terence Young published his second book of poetry, Moving Day
, in 2006. The poems in the collection are a contrasting mixture of the fantastical and observed reality. Even as he writes about love, marriage, raising children, home repair, and education, he also writes about the slippery nature of memory and dreams. It is these latter poems that garner the most praise from critics. “This West Coast poet is most interesting when he verges into daydream and fantasy and becomes imagistically venturesome” (The Globe and Mail
Turning away from the mundane, Young instead focuses on the way dreams can seep into the waking world, especially in the early hours of the morning before the responsibilities of life crowd them out. He finds the same liminal boundary crossing in the effects of memory and its malleability—a quality that is almost magical in Young’s description.
The more realistic side of the collection features poems such as “'My Young Wife One Confessed” and “'The Benediction,” which focus on the way clearing out the everyday is a preparation for a big “moving day.” This means both a literal house cleaning that removes evidence of lived experience and a push to erase or at least rearrange the emotional baggage of the past. Remembering a boyhood incident of cruel intimidation, the speaker does not pass judgment on childhood bullies, but simply recounts the event with an attempt at a clean slate:
I know nothing
about the past, about what is rare and
what is commonplace.
Everything, even cruelty, is
a mystery I am willing to learn.
The poem “Prelude to the Afternoon” reaches to the universal, comparing the experience of a deer pausing during its feeding to that of laborers pausing when having reached a natural breaking point in their work. The poem captures the moment when memory surfaces and distracts from the day to day—a phenomenon it chronicles in all creatures, ascribing sapience to a deer looking into the middle distance,
the scene has provoked an idea,
prodded a memory, as though this
is a period for reflection,
Addressing the reader, the speaker of the poem “When You Become Young Again,” wonders how to square the experiences of youth that have shaped the adult with the disappointing and sometimes confusing reality of being that adult. Each stanza references a brief moment that encapsulates a specific age—a child walking to the beach, a teenager sneaking a kiss—and remembers the self-assuredness of that time when the future seemed infinite and full of possibility, when “You think you can predict the form/your journey will take.” However, the reality of that future is surprisingly prosaic, with only the magic of memories sustaining an otherwise ordinary life.
“Hostages” takes the surreal first-person plural perspective of the world’s movers and shakers, whether those be birds shockingly flying in through open windows or “adulterers in city parks who force others from the path.” Each of the poem’s many named creatures is eager to forge a new path, “waiting/for a change in the weather, some excuse to move on to the/next thing.” However, this ambitious striving is tempered by the poem’s title, which reins in the excitement of pursuit by declaring that these aspirants are hostages to the modern world. The problem is that the forward momentum leaves no time for contemplation, memory, or historicity: “Shopping lists” become “the only diary/that accurately reflects our lives.”