Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daily Gleaner Reviews Meniscus

In November 2009, Oromocto native Shane Neilson received the Mimi Divinsky Award for History and Narrative in Family Medicine at the 2009 Family Medical Forum in Calgary. The award, which is accompanied by a $1,000 cash prize, recognizes the narrative account of experiences in family medicine.

A second honour came Neilson's way with the publication of Meniscus which sees Neilson move away from chapbooks to his first full-length trade book of verse.

Meniscus, according to The Canadian Oxford Dictionary means (1) the curved upper surface of a liquid in a tube; (2) a lens that is convex on one side and concave on the other; and (3) a thin fibrous cartilage between the surfaces of some joints.

All three meanings could be applicable.

The first section of Meniscus features the poems in Neilson's first chapbook, The Beaten-Down Elegies (2004). These are memory poems of growing up and witnessing how life is lived through the eyes of youth.

The second section, Manic Statement, contains various utterances relating to the medical profession. Bipolar, for example, is a brief, but very poignant expression of this affliction in which "all roads/ are mad."

Life on 8 Lane is another deeply moving poem that relates existence in a psychiatric ward along side that of "the city in perpetual drizzle" as "the sun still rises and sets." There is no cure is a poem that has reflective metaphors on the parallels between farmers and doctors noting especially how "the doctors shake their heads like farmers do/ when the season's bad."

The section titled Seized records all sorts of messages from the doctor's viewpoint on such topics as open head injuries, seizures en route, the ambulance, the MRI, and the OR.

The last section, Love Life is complete with paradoxes on numerous aspects of life and its precious significance.

On Realizing his Toddler Will Become a Woman and Before Irony express well the theme of the section, which has considerable emphasis for Neilson's daughter.

Neilson, who grew up in Oromocto, attended Oromocto High School, and the University of New Brunswick before studying medicine at Dalhousie University, now lives in Guelph, Ont., where he is a family physician. Although the practice of medicine and the literary arts are not always compatible, Neilson clearly demonstrates how it is possible to be successful at both.

Meniscus has an excellent balance in which the medical practitioner spans the vital features of life and death with precision, understanding, care, and realism.

- reviewed by MICHAEL O. NOWLAN

For The Daily Gleaner

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