The University of Winnipeg UNITER, February 12, 2004

wake and The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through a Literary Marriage

by Jenny Western

Melanie Cameron and Mark Morton have been married for almost three years. Together, they share four dogs and two books, respectively, published in 2003. Released at a joint launch this past fall, it is by no means too late to be reviewing these separate, yet well-paired books in the month of February. Cameron's book of poetry matched with Morton's etymology of love and sex will make a fine duo on anyone's nightstand during this season of Saint Valentine.

Originally from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Melanie Cameron was drawn to Winnipeg by a Masters degree and the city's writing community. She has since been embraced as one of the prairie's own. She was shortlisted for the Eileen MacTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book by a Manitoba Writer and for the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. Clearly, she is a celebrated poet. Her previous book, Holding the Dark, was called "Impressive" by the Globe and Mail who also wrote that the poems "demand to be read aloud." The same could easily be said of her most recent collection, wake. These poems have a lyrical quality and word arrangement that the mouth is eager to try out.

We carry
inside us, but must
hand it back
to ourselves, over
time. As here--
a garden of flowers [...]

Morton's book, The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, also plays with words, but with chapter titles such as "Go Down Moses: Oral Sex Words," folks may be more likely to read this volume behind closed doors than out loud. Morton humourously diffuses the potentially controversial subject matter during his first chapter where he deconstructs possible criticisms of his book by examining words like smut, racy, and distasteful. "Salacious, for instance, derives from the Latin salire, meaning to jump, implying that such an action -- jumping the bones -- might result from reading a salacious book like this one."

Morton's research came from a variety of sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary, the Dean of Arts Neil Besner, and phone calls to Australia. "I like the process of putting things together," says Morton. "It's like teaching." Indeed, as a member of the English department, Morton is one of the University of Winnipeg's most popular professors.

Cameron herself sports a varied list of literary experiences on her resume but remains most connected to poetry. Her work is personal, thoughtful, and admittedly a requirement for her own sense of well-being. Cameron and Morton agree that this is one of the major differences between their books, as Morton's challenge is directed outwardly in his attempt to elicit a sensation of wonder about the ever changing nature of language from his readers. Cameron also points out that her book is set up to consume as a whole. Morton's readers may need to take consistent breaks in order to wipe the perspiration from their brow.

The two texts are not so different, though. These are, after all, writings from a wife and a husband who met through literary circumstances. This is a charming couple. When remarking on how the books were launched together, Cameron says contemplatively, "To have all the attention on me feels heavier than doing it with someone...and it was fun." Cameron had originally suggested the collaboration, Morton recalls. "I think initially I said, 'Oh, that's crazy.' And then, like two days later, I suggested it back to you," he says, turning to her. They laugh together and she touches his knee.

Melanie Cameron, wake, The Muses' Company, 112 pages
Mark Morton, The Lover's Tongue, Insomniac Press, 235 pages