Thesen's earliest poetry, written in the early 1960s, was followed by a ten-year silence during which she "listened, edited, and thought about poetry." As a younger poet who shared many aspects of Phyllis WEBB's poetics, she was a fine choice to edit Webb's The Vision Tree: Selected Poems (1982). Her own first book, Artemis Hates Romance (1980), was hailed as a stunning debut. Holding the Pose (1983) furthered Thesen's explorations of the feminist lyric voice.
Confabulations: Poems for Malcolm Lowry (1984), a documentary poem sequence exploring Lowry's twin demons of alcoholism and writing, was short-listed for the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD. The Beginning of the Long Dash (1987), especially in its long title poem, seeks to confront and comprehend new theoretical assumptions within traditional lyric ones; Thesen's poems interrogate the traditional conventions even as they appear to utilize them. Nevertheless, her essays have attacked increasingly what she sees as other critics' dependence on theory.
In 1988, as a sign of her growing reputation, she was featured in a special issue of The Malahat Review "on Paulette JILES, Diana Hartog & Sharon Thesen." The Pangs of Sunday (1990), a collection of selected and new poems from a major publisher, confirmed her position as one of the finest poets to emerge in the 1980s. It was followed by Aurora (1995) and News & Smoke: Selected Poems (1999), a collection focusing on life in Vancouver, her city of residence from 1965 until 2005.
The title of the accomplished A Pair of Scissors (2000), for which she received the Pat LOWTHER Memorial Award, is derived from a long poem inspired by Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. Thesen's interest in the form is evident in her editorship of The New Long Poem Anthology (1991, rev 2001). Among the other books on which Thesen has worked as an editor are The Griffin Poetry Prize Anthology (2003) and A Modern Correspondence (1999), which features letters between American poet Charles Olson and book designer Frances Boldereff. The latter was co-edited with Ralph Maud.
Perhaps her most personal work is Weeping Willow (2005), a slim volume containing twelve poems that recall her close friendship with the late Angela Bowering, wife of fellow poet George BOWERING. In The Good Bacteria (2006), Thesen continues to focus on the minutia of common experience.
Critics speak of the luminosity of Thesen's poetry, as well as its near-violent precision; there is an air of barely controlled passion to her apparently analytic lyrics. Anger, loss, a wry awareness of the vagaries of love, and a delight in natural beauty animate her poems.
Author DOUGLAS BARBOUR Rev: BRIAN BUSBY