The poems in crawlspace, John Pass's first volume of poetry since he won the Governor General's Literary Award in 2006, work within the narrowing passages imposed upon us by the inevitable strictures and limitations of living and experience: aging, love and loss, tightening or unraveling family ties. Close to home as always, in one instance literally under the house he has built, Pass's work is grounded too in the wider world. Travelling from urban Toronto's Bloor Street, "...a rough wind in the empty elms rolling/ into the streets the liberated beer cans" to the bucolic "...golden light in the bunch grass and aspens" of Pennask Lake in BC's Okanagan, to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris with Matisse in mind, he never loses sight of the roughly textured physical world where he has found poetry's footing for four decades:
What of the salt-leaching stone beneath
the fresco's lustrous skin, and the unconditioned air
outdoors, alive with showers and traffic splashing
where we an hour ago these
centuries later came in?
Pass's intelligent and compassionate vision encompasses
human frailty, memory, and our wondrous, fraught engagements
with (and within) nature. "The long view's our forever/ human incongruity in landscape, on earth. A given,/ the distance. And a gift, to stretch us--restless reaches along the road." crawlspace is a gift that expands the landscape and sensibility of Canadian literature even as it celebrates the intricacies of self.