Judith Fitzgerald's almost without equal in this country; she is a fine — a very fine — poet; that shines through her work which both dances and dazzles. Mark my words, her work will live forever because she is, in my estimation of her magnificent talent, the last of the great Modernists.
Judith Fitzgerald's poetry is remarkable. It is stunningly original; distinguished by wit, beauty, and a powerful sense of language, created always according to the high standards of integrity and craftsmanship which inform all aspects of her admirable literary enterprise.
A truly excellent poet, I don't think there's anybody in the country that probably has the originality [Fitzgerald's] voice possesses. She is not only the most intelligent poet in Canada, she's also able to take language to new heights and is sensitive to language and all the nuances associated with it. She's one of the greats; and, by that, I mean, THE GREATS.
Dear Judith . . . You are so sharp with words that perhaps you don't even know how crisp and accurate you are sometimes . . . When I read your pieces on Lillard and others a while back and you said something to the effect that he wrote most about himself, that his ego was the subject, I agreed most. I had heard him speak in that defence of the forest affair that took place in Van., and he bragged about having written some three- or four-hundred newspaper lit columns, and I wanted to gag. Ego is the most and least valuable thing a writer needs. His was overweening. But he died of cancer, and that's supposed to make things right. It doesn't . . . I gotta stop. My head is pounding from jet lag and sheer weariness. So take care of yourself. I think you've got guts and courage in equal amounts. Best, Al
— Al Purdy, Yours, Al: The Collected Letters of Al Purdy
You may not have known. Al Purdy, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, and Anne Carson "are writers of such inferior quality that in a truly literate society they would be recognised as a national embarrassment." Atwood, Ondaatje, and Carson are "a drone, an entrepreneur, and a cipher respectively" . . . Yann Martel's Life of Pi [is] "among the most boring, uninflected, and monochromatic novels ever written and published in this country." Alistair MacLeod's No Great Mischief is "a one-note Celtic threnody steeped in banal and portentous sentiment." Forget the poets. Al Purdy's "cheerful and inchoate pied piping" has led us "into the abyss of trivial posturing, linguistic herniation, and inconsiderable commentary called contemporary Canadian poetry." Piping in the abyss are Lorna Crozier (better than a sedative), Judith Fitzgerald ("blowzy episodic wanderings"), George Bowering ("idle reveries gaping with an utter lack of substance and urgency"), Susan
Musgrave ("half-baked domestic reflections that belong in a diary") and Don McKay ("slightness wedded to garrulity").
— Fraser Sutherland Lays It on the Dotted Line vis-à-vis D. Solway's Director's Cut in The Globe and Mail
In the fourth and final book of her Adagios Quartet, Judith Fitzgerald cautions her readers through the words of one of her characters: "Explore what's real and what isn't. / Then, you'll know what to do." What to do is simple: read and reread her poetry: in its amazing use of language and idiom, she captures an entire world and its visions.
Judith Fitzgerald's Adagios Quartet is poetry of personal and cultural pain and rich, surprising linguistic play, modernist in economy, epic in dimension, bristling with intelligence, illuminated by psychological and spiritual vision . . .
. . . She is probably the most brilliant poet writing in North America, just extremely, extremely bright.
For her Adagios Quartet, a four-book cycle, Judith Fitzgerald has chosen to write about one of the most dysfunctional families in literary history, that of Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, and their unfortunate children . . . I am constantly impressed with Fitzgerald's control over tone. In keeping with the speaker's state of mind, the short poems shift maniacally between several poles: sombre, whimsical, mournful, indignant and even, occasionally, jazzy, as when Orestes, reflecting on the violence that haunts him, says,
The rhythm of these lines, slipping from a smooth wave to disjointed staccato, redoubles the impression of a mind becoming unravelled.
For much of his lament, Orestes addresses his sister, the famous Electra, but it is in the third book of the quartet, Adagios: Electra's Benison, that the original daddy's girl truly comes to the fore. Though she conspired with Orestes to commit matricide, Fitzgerald's Electra clearly has the cooler head. In the opening pages, we discover a voice that is calmer and more controlled than her brother's spasmodic howling. Fitzgerald's tonal virtuosity is still at work throughout this book, but now it is measured, structured, flowing naturalistically from one mood to another, illustrating how very different Electra's mentality is from Orestes's.
The third book of the Adagios broadens its scope in other ways, too. There is a greater structural freedom. Breaking free of the eight- or nine-line formula of the previous book, Electra's Benison speaks to us in a wider variety of stanza forms, free verse riffs, prose poems, and prayers. This newfound formal diversity is echoed in the extension of the book's thematic possibilities. The anachronistic appeals to modern matters are more varied and explicit. Here the personae of classical myth can address the central figures of Christianity, or allude to Ground Zero, or Elvis Presley, or gun control.
It's a complex and endlessly generous work. The author's sweat and tears are clearly in evidence. O, Clytaemnestra!, the fourth and final book of the Quartet, should be released some time this year. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting its arrival.
In this, the second slow-movement in a four-part epic, Judith Fitzgerald mourns brilliantly the breakdown of contemporary civilisation, from economies, wars, famines to the environment against the background of the Homeric Oresteia, and does it with dense imagery, rich with Biblical and literary undertones . . . This is also an extended poem of madness, Orestes being chased by the Erinyes, those mad goddesses, serpent-haired, dog-headed, bat-winged, sometimes regarded as pangs of conscience, with an underlying reminder of Lear's madness and despair:
We live in a world bearing down on being, a whitened world
where, following full brightness, the moon falls apart in our hands,
falls victim to our obsessions with grave sights invisible . . .
The hard-hitting language of the lamentation, sharp consonants and short vowels, give immediacy to the poetry while the Biblical echoes give spiritual depth and broaden the perspective on grief . . . Fitzgerald challenges awareness to the depths. She twists the knife with precision in First World conceptions as she moves through the madness of Orestes' journey to that place where the reader must "stay the course until the moon rises to reveal the blood on its underside."
Fitzgerald braids her experience with Iphigenia's in a sway between verse and prose that follows a classical tradition of prosimetric writing. But while Iphigenia's story foregrounds Hellenic distances crossed, Fitzgerald's is one of passing time. The tumble of words giving way to measured lines denotes a movement through states of mind that is at times a sad wander, at times a terrified lurch. The shifts rock her; she must periodically exhort herself to "breathe goddamnit breathe." As Iphigenia's body is sacrificed, so the poet's body is offered up to the terrible power of elementary betrayal . . .
In its baroque diction, alliterative play, and fetishistic returns, Iphigenia's Song calls to mind the work of Susan Mitchell. Fitzgerald's "jouissance," however, is the Thanatos to Mitchell's Eros, worrying the perfidy and pain that lurk on the fringes of love. Both writers employ the precise uncommon words too often tossed into the bin of the academic. Heaven knows, the use of challenging language is no failing . . . Fitzgerald is far more unsettling when she allows this dread, the loneliness, anxiety, and fear, to float up through lines less mobbed. Note the weariness of "Orestes' Lament": "Give up, give in, give over; but, it is not / your time to go beyond what you cannot know." Or the twitchy sidle-up of this bit from the section titled "Spoilered for Cutting":
He went too far
off the track, strictly
section eight, him
instead of lying
dormy in the place
he'd climbed . . .
This is closer to the jitters, the shakes, the "oh, no" creeping in to get us. There is a breadth of address, of attack and plea, in Iphigenia's Song. The authenticity of its generative experience is not in question.
— Karen Solie, The Globe and Mail
Along similar lines, Adagios: Iphigenia's Song, by Judith Fitzgerald, takes us into the daemonic form of this variation. Iphigenia was the sacrificed daughter of Agamemnon, who needed to cancel a debt to Artemis for calming the waters for his fleet. Iphigenia paid the price. The story is used as a vehicle for working through memories of sexual abuse, its residues of self-destruction and distrust. Given the garden / love model that Fitzgerald works with ("I am in the garden. / I am that corpse / in the garden, the one / you left for dead"), the poems about self-mutilation, with their images of sculpted topiary and lament for a genuine connection, underline the abject ironic conditions of the poet's experience:
Leave me be;
leave me to myself;
stop getting in the way.
No, I don't mean it.
I am trying to connect,
to see scars and know
it is me who wounds
to mark parameters
of pain and drag
the blade against
My skin. I sculpt flesh
to remind me of its owner.
Fitzgerald's response is tough, versatile, mythically allusive, and hopefully recreative. It is almost all you can ask of a bad business.
— Jeffery Donaldson, University of Toronto Quarterly
Quand Herbert Marshall voit le jour à Edmonton, le 21 juillet 1911, outre Mme Marshall qui, à l'instar de toutes les mères, déclarera par la suite avoir bien pressenti que son fils était différent, personne ne s'émeut outre mesure. Et pourtant, l'être qui vient de naître sera un éminent visionnaire, un innovateur qui révolutionnera entièrement le monde des médias. La biographie de Judith Fitzgerald, dans un style simple, coloré et pour le moins accessible, rend hommage au travail colossal de ce libre penseur audacieux. L'ouvrage, plutôt destiné aux néophytes, relate le parcours à la fois professionnel et personnel de McLuhan. Parfois lassant, souvent édifiant, c'est un écrit à lire . . . avec un certain recul.
— N. W., Voir
. . . Judith Fitzgerald, a Toronto poet and critic, has written a brief and fascinating book, Marshall McLuhan: Wise Guy. We are offered an intellectual adventure which aims to help us understand his ideas by deconstructing his thinking patterns and their relationship to his seminal influences and background . . . "Understanding Media is not a book that begins at the beginning and ends at the end. McLuhan stressed this fact repeatedly, pointing out that he encouraged a dip-and-dive approach to his mosaic, or collage-like, reflection of probes, observations, and assertions. To make his points — he shamelessly admits — he prods, pokes, fudges facts, spouts aphorisms (or what he calls "verbal hand grenades"), spews wisecracks, and stops at nothing to illuminate his views (including several controversial ones)." . . . Marshall McLuhan: Wise Guy is an easy read and Fitzgerald has done a masterful job of conveying the spirit of the man and the spirit of the times.
— Barry Duncan, The Media Awareness Network
Herbert Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) a pourtant réussi à atteindre une reconnaissance telle que ses principaux aphorismes, « le média est le message » et, surtout, « le village global », font maintenant partie des expressions courantes. Il est même devenu l’objet d’un véritable culte né notamment de l’intérêt que lui ont porté les figures de proue de l’ère psychédélique: John Lennon, Woody Allen, et Timothy Leary pour ne citer que ceux-là. Ses théories sont pourtant abstraites, complexes pour ne pas dire un peu confuses, mais non pas dénuées d’une originalité certaine. Ceci explique certainement cela, sans compter que l’homme savait secouer son auditoire en lançant à ses disciples des idées « révolutionnaires ». En lui ouvrant leurs pages, les publications grand public comme « Fortune », « Esquire », « TV Guide », « Family Circle », « Look », « Vogue », « Mademoiselle », « Playboy », etc., ont d’ailleurs contribué fortement à sa célébrité . . . Les lecteurs qui désirent mieux comprendre les théories communicationnelles de McLuhan seront laissés sur leur faim par le livre de Fitzgerald. Ceux qui espèrent y trouver un regard critique sur ses théories seront carrément déçus. Par contre, cette biographie dresse un portrait intéressant, quoique souvent impressionniste, de l’homme qu’il fut. À ce sujet, le livre contient quelques très belles photos. En somme, « Marshall McLuhan: un visionnaire » est d’une lecture agréable, facile, et enrichissante à certains égards malgré un biais par trop favorable. Comme éloge, il est difficile de faire davantage. McLuhan fut une vedette et cette biographie est visiblement l’œuvre d’une fan. Il s’agit en fait d’un ouvrage qui viendra colorer toute étude sur McLuhan sans pouvoir toutefois se substituer à des analyses plus élaborées et, surtout, plus nuancées.
— Michel Filion, Sommaire
. . . Fans regard him as the most significant prophet and interpreter of the new age of information; critics accuse him of everything from abstruseness to wild speculation. The years since his original publications have seen his concepts imbedded (if not entirely understood beyond cliché‚) within contemporary language: the ideas in particular of the medium being the message, and of our movement toward becoming a "global village." In tracking the reception of McLuhan's ideas, the author has done an effective job of showing the inherently conservative nature of the university settings in which McLuhan found himself: at Wisconsin, St Louis, Assumption, St Michael's at the University of Toronto, and most importantly, his pioneering Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. Media and related studies along with the invasion of post-modernism have since accorded McLuhan's thinking a place of comparative respect within the academic setting; but a full understanding of its nature and implications clearly require more than any general overview can realistically provide. The author has attempted with some success to explain aspects of McLuhan's message ("hot" and "cool" media, for example), but has not really been able to leave the reader with a comprehensive and coherent synopsis (if such is, in fact, possible).
— Alexander Gregor, CM Magazine
Judith Fitzgerald's Marshall McLuhan: Wise Guy (2001) helps bring the impressive figure to life. Her book is number 14 in a series of Canadian Biographies published by The Quest Library and is plugged as "a lively way to read Canadian history . . ." Wise Guy provides a sketch of McLuhan's life from his birth in Edmonton in 1911 to his death in Toronto in 1980. McLuhan attended the University of Manitoba and received his Ph.D from Cambridge University. Not bad for an Oxford reject due to his insistence to the admissions agent that comic strips really are worthy of academic study . . .Throughout the biography, Fitzgerald has interwoven fictionalised conversations using language intended to evoke the personality of the man himself. In several imagined exchanges, McLuhan's witty, pun-filled and funny style of speaking is reproduced. Fitzgerald succeeds in painting McLuhan as a proud, ambitious, loving, and humourous person. The detailed depiction of McLuhan's medical problems, including undergoing brain surgery and suffering two strokes, is moving. In his last year of life, a second stroke took away his ability to speak — a bitter irony for McLuhan, who spent most of his life conversing non-stop. Fitzgerald delicately describes the way this undermined the very essence of a man committed to communication . . . If what you're looking for is a Cliff's Notes summary of McLuhan's many publications, then this book is not for you . . . Wise Guy is a readable introduction to the life of Marshall McLuhan. The reader gets to know his ambitions, desires, influences, and personality. One is even forgiving of his troubling opposition to birth control, feminism, homosexuality, sex education, and non-white immigration. Yikes! Marshall sure was a product of his time; at least he was an interesting one.
— Christine Dobby, McGill Tribune
Fitzgerald writes . . . in the traditional form of the epic poem of telling a story through the form of poetry, through deliberate cadence and constraints, and formal sonnets pulling the thread between art, faith, and love amid crushing blows of death and belief ravaged . . . As well as the overwhelming heart-wrenching passion of her work, one of Fitzgerald's strengths has always been the rhythmic and musical quality of the line, the hurtin' country-song twang, less prevalent in this book, but still there:
So you feel reckless and lost in the art
of holding it close while it blows apart.
Every little thing, every little life
slickly glistening, the image, the knife . . .
Through her writing, Fitzgerald has always been able to rip your heart out, even as your brain knows all about it and why — the heartbroken de Rais questioning everything in the world, and his unrequited song for the Bride of Christ. In Twenty-Six Ways Out of This World, Fitzgerald has accomplished a magnificent and indelible work . . .
— "An Epic Effort," The Globe and Mail
Sarah McLachlan: Building a Mystery was mentioned here in RPM in glowing terms before; but, armed with the author's copy, it demanded another read, revealing even more of the mystique that surrounds this Canadian superstar. Fitz has an uncanny way of expression that captures every nuance of her characters and impacts immediately . . . a very positive read. If you're interested in a gritty behind-the-scenes look at one segment of the recording industry, get your copy now!
— Juno Co-Founder Walt Grealis, O.C., RPM
. . . In the Canadian context, A.F. Moritz's review of Fitzgerald's River might be right: "River reveals Fitzgerald to be involved in the most vital literary quest now going forward in Canada . . ." (Moritz 1996, p. 17). Even though Fitzgerald's is a literary quest, she gives attention to socio-economic and political details in a way that is unavailable, say, in Margaret Atwood's Morning in the Burned House, another book of "Canadian" poetry published about the same time as Fitzgerald's. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald's book corroborates Waite's points about the sub-liminal effects of Nietzsche, for her fluent references to Nietzsche are allusions, such as "ecco man" late in the poem, an indirect reference to Nietzsche's Ecce Homo, and Nietzsche goes unacknowledged at the end of the book as one of the questionable sources of this River. Fitzgerald is thus one of Nietzsche's corps. As Waite says, "[O]ne of the things Nietzsche intended was to recruit good-natured people to support him against the interests of others . . ." (155).
— Dr. Bruce Krajewski, Canadian Philosophical Review
A long jeremiad against North American culture at the close of the millennium, River might be subtitled McWasteland. Frequently, specific passages in the poem are very effective. Fitzgerald demonstrates a mastery of all the modernist and postmodernist compositional modes: parataxis and collage techniques, fragmentation, structural and verbal quotation (including a heavy input of decontextualised commercial and advertising language). Often energetic and moving, the language here is filled with both sadness and rage at what's left of the world; it is an extremely ambitious poem in the enormous scope of its concerns.
— Michael Boughn, University of Toronto Quarterly
Fitzgerald weaves and creates a world out of so many threads . . . One of our most important poets because she writes and thinks her poetry like no one else. River is an ambitious illustration of the contents of the mind of North America.
— Missing Jacket
River is an epic poem, something that has been attempted by few women writers in the Western tradition . . . A look inside the minds of late twentieth-century North America.
— The Windsor Star
[Judith Fitzgerald] is a poet of great range — in form, mood, and vocabulary — and her use of language is often scintillating, the faint narrative nearly overwhelmed by musicality and an electric intellect, as in this excerpt from [walkin' wounded's] title poem: "At its source, / lacunae emptying echo, / inarticulate abyss. / Rhythm and bruise, / my half-step to heartache, / the way light collapses when you enter a room. / Overdrive, making believe." The difficulties in Fitzgerald's work are evident here. These are poems you have to back into; they don't meet you eye to eye. In "Haiku Curve," a baseball cycle, the imagistic phrases linked by colons suggest more than anything constellations of words — and, like constellations, the poems never quite resemble what they're supposed to. At times the energy in the writing is harnessed, and then the intelligence sustains its brightness for longer than an image or phrase to give us a powerful grouping of poems such as "All in Your Head" and lines like these closing ones from "Cover of Sunday":
Awake! I can no longer bear neat and predictable idolatries
of lyricality and so, write poetry.
I see parallels between territory
and invader, sabotage and saboteur,
the fallen ultimately raised up in exquisite anguish.
Keep your self safe, your wits about you.
Forget the chalk outlining your heart.
— Marlene Cookshaw, Books in Canada
Although Rapturous Chronicles is similarly steeped in the waters of Liffey, Fitzgerald's runic Rorschach here discloses rather than obscures her meanings. Like Joyce, Fitzgerald writes more with aural than with visual imagery. Her poetry is less stimulated by things seen than by things overheard . . . The polyphonic layeredness of Fitzgerald's text portrays the way we normally exist, with our feelings, memories, associations, perceptions, and concerns cluttering and connecting in non-linear process. Against the polyphony of consciousness, Fitzgerald poses the structuring impulse, a desire to come, through writing, to greater understanding, and to give, as well, adequate lyric expression to the dignities and reality of life, love, and grief. While trying to understand "our dissensions, divisions, and separations" (p. 33), Fitzgerald traces her own origin and poetic birth, making of Rapturous Chronicles something analogous to Wordsworth's Prelude or Walcott's Another Life. Like Wordsworth and Walcott, she finds her poetry beginnings in childhood; like them she finds her poetics and her politics rooted in a valuing of common humanity; but, unlike them, she did not come from middle-class book-reading families and, on the evidence of Fitzgerald's poetry, the difference of class seems more important than a difference of gender.
— M. Travis Lane, The Fiddlehead
To insure that one's history stays one's own, one must avoid that which would deny it, whether that be schools or society; to know, furthermore, that institutions of any kind do not speak to one's experience, even if one does, sometimes, seek them out or find refuge
there. "If you take the back streets," Judith Fitzgerald reminds us in these rapturous chronicles, "you can make it out the woods . . ."
"Aesthetics is born of a discourse of the body," Terry Eagleton writes, and Fitzgerald knows she must determine a language which will say what her body knows, even though she knows that words cannot say what the body can, that words lie and the body does not, that "there is nothing / to say that can alter the configuration of blankets / and flesh in lapidary azure light." For Fitzgerald, then, the body poetic is no metaphor; it is real; and, the poem, like the body, is body language. Fitzgerald always brings one to the other: "There is a poem," she says, "I will write with lips and eyes / across the inside of your thighs." (Hart Crane reading Melville to the sailors he picked up.) This means that the body is poetry if we can but find the words to read, and that poetry, no matter its words, is just words ("All I know," writes Fitzgerald, "what lies / beyond punctuation, / what constitutes silence"). Poetry fails, always. Words take us away from the only knowledge we have. They are also all we have that can return us to it.
Fitzgerald needs "words to carry her home / into herself . . . The words, the language," she notes, "keep me going." Then, she adds, reminding herself, "I only write what hands know: There is no escape / except in the refuge of this poem." Poetry is useless, but how can Fitzgerald not write it? To speak of her poetry as literature is, in some way, to dismiss it; to speak of it as something less than literature is to misread it. She knows the distinction; and, on the evidence the poet herself provides, this difference would seem to matter almost more than life itself.
Rapturous Chronicles, shortlisted for the Governor-General's Award for Poetry, is a sequential prose-poem elegy composed for writer Juan Butler set in a moonlit, heartbroken, Leonard Cohenesque Toronto romanesque of summer nights, baseball, and suicide . . . [a] book of considerable energy and ambition.
— David Manicom, Essays in Canadian Writing
A virtuouso dance along the tightrope of language and, like a highwire act, Rapturous Chronicles is both intensely personal and, supremely, a performance. Its organising principle is not linear logic; it is the rollercoaster of emotion in coming to terms with loss, longing, grief, and wrenching desire as the poet turns to writing as a means of adjustment, adaptation, survival: "The language keeps me going, the world I create / from words and wrap around me. Each new word tastes and smells and feels / itself into my nervous system. Sounded over and over, each becomes / exotic bird, flower, place. Each provides transport."
— Barbara Carey, Books in Canada
Ultimate Midnight, a worthy successor to Diary of Desire, features a characteristic elegiac tone among poems centring upon loss, despair, and ephemerality. Made of thirteen shorter pieces as well as the longer title-poem in twelve sections, or "hours," the work contains an urban sort of rhythm that must be read slowly and with care.
— Bruce Whiteman, Books in Canada
Ultimate Midnight is a serious, sometimes very powerful, poem about living in a strange time. Fitzgerald, electrified by the bad images slithering around on TV, raves magnificently about "carnivalistic humanism" and informational Armageddon; but, there is more to this than postmodern vertigo. Ultimate Midnight is exhilarating, like a five-alarm fire at city hall — but, my God, there are people in there!
Judith Fitzgerald's poetry is wonderful — witty, unaffected, profound. It speaks directly to the heart. I loved Given Names. The first thing I wanted to do when I finished it was read it again.
— Katherine Govier, Writers' Choice
Fitzgerald's self is abundantly with us in [Given Names]. These are intensely personal poems, but they are not confessional in the usual sense, they do not invite the reader's voyeurism . . . The names function as traffic islands for a sensibility that seldom fails to break the speed limit.
— Fraser Sutherland, The Globe and Mail
[Given Names] subsumes autobiography, drama, fiction, gossip, verse, polemic, history. In addition to its subversion of genre, this gathering's recurrent emphasis on language and figure works to remove them from their familiar place in canonised literature. Through pun, wordplay, unorthodox syntax, Fitzgerald defamiliarises words like "conjunction," "person," "names," "syntax," "order," and makes them come to life unconditioned by gender, unappropriated by tradition . . . A genuinely new writing.
— Frank Davey, Introduction
Judith Fitzgerald has chosen an "unofficial" book form as the structure of her latest publication, Diary of Desire. The diary is an essentially private book-structure in which the "I" is allowed free rein. The true free rein of the "I" is, in itself, an attack on the almost snobbish notion of objectivity that so many poets and poetry editors harbour. And the "diary" can be seen as the preserver of that "I," the preserver of the true voice of women through the years of repression, the place in which women's language has survived. And this is precisely one of the functions of a diary: to record that which is otherwise inexpressible, the full weight of desire. Fitzgerald's book is a powerful voicing of these "forbidden," in that sense, feelings, those very emotions that mark us as human.
A kind of postmodern Shepheardes Calender in which Rosalind gets her turn to talk, Judith Fitzgerald's Diary of Desire is enhanced by a wit and perceptiveness voiced in long loping lines beautifully and predictably paced. It is an exquisite accomplishment.
— Bruce Whiteman, Quill & Quire
Fitzgerald composes poems as a gemsmith cuts diamonds. The breadth of her imagery and use of sustained metaphor challenge even the poet-reader stimulated to multi-level associations . . . She is at the height of her career and Diary of Desire, earthy and spiritual, attests to her maturity and power as a poet.
— The Toronto Star
Her sixth book, moving to where the "heart slants / to an invisible angle," to language so spare, so pure, there's "just the wide open spaces of our longing" moving to the clear. Assured, a poet of accomplshed hurt, sending us her "past cards" from where all is remembered and redeemed. "Past Cards" may very well be the best poetic sequence by any poet of her generation. [Split/Levels] is a splendidly achieved book.
Split/Levels: poetry of the heart as open country the poem rides to its horizon. In her new collection, Judith Fitzgerald keeps a heady pace, riding with a quick ear & wit the stock phrasing, the identifiable personae (in herself & others) of contemporary relationships. Speaking close to the bone, wary of doubletalk & attentive to the multiple talk of shifting language levels, she has "laid / her cards on the table, / shot with a meaning" which makes this book less a trophy than a lively process. No dust on this finely articulated rag-and-bone-shop art.
Judith Fitzgerald, who once told Canadian Author she writes poetry because "it is one of the few ethical decisions available to individuals during these desolate times: It is a decision of conscience, to be, to do, to make, to continue," is a poet, anthologist, songwriter, music critic, and literary journalist. But, if anything is bound to make a mark, it will be Split/Levels, by far one of her best collections and, without exaggeration, certainly one of the most interesting books to come out. Although all writers cover old ground, Fitzgerald does so with freshness. This collection presents a powerful indictment of our times. In some instances, the poems pierce through the often-confused and bewildering relationship between parents and children. At other times they actually clarify the surreal that arises so often in ordinary conversations or situations. Perhaps the strongest writing here lies in the highly lyrical "Past Cards," a 22-part sequence about a lifetime of abuse and of being shunted back and forth from foster home to foster home. These poems cut to the bone of real experience, so much so that one can almost feel the steely stare of a young girl as you turn your eyes away from her words.
— The Windsor Star
All too much contemporary poetry is thinly disguised indulgence in therapeutic autobiography; fortunately, there are exceptions. Some poetry sounds chords that set the air on fire. Judith Fitzgerald has arrived here with Easy Over, her fifth collection; her arrival, however, is not without its history and Easy Over, in context, climaxes a trilogy of books. Victory is the story of a friendship between a stripper and a young poet, both of whom are actively involved in disclosing that which lies beneath appearances. Her next work, Lacerating Heartwood, represents a chilling descent into purgatory as the poet comes to the realisation the world is suffused with violence; here, she creates a concentration camp of human emotions where exploitation is the norm and love is a flowering evil. Easy Over, the capstone of the trilogy, provides both turning-point and metamorphosis, completing the cycle and bringing the poet home to certain ground.
SP/Elles, then, works very much as feminist theory and criticism as a whole does, constantly subverting our notion of woman as a unified entity, and substituting, instead, a polyphony of meanings. All of these alternatives — breaking the language, stealing the language, and writing the language of the body — have this in common: they are acts of resistance, of wilful difference. Resistance is a leitmotiv of the poems in SP/Elles that sums up much of the anthology's aesthetic and political vigour. Perhaps it is this note of resistance that makes SP/Elles, in spite of its flaws, an important event in Canadian women's literature.
— Lorraine York, Essays on Canadian Writing: Recent Canadian Poetry
This collection of 13 women poets should probably be read behind closed doors — not because there's anything shameful about it, but rather because the majority of work represented cannot be fully appreciated unless read aloud . . . Sp/Elles is very much a celebration of sound and more specifically, of a language that Judith Fitzgerald describes as springing from "an ideology and aesthetic centered in women's consciousness" . . . That the collection represents one approach to the use of language to represent women's experience without excluding other forms is perhaps its most refreshing trait. The spirit of Sp/Elles is one of plurality and inclusion. Its tone overall is positive, celebratory, and even adventurous — so I welcome it, though there are other poets I might like to see included, and a few selections that don't really speak my language.