On this July 1st (Canada Day) here are some reasons why reading contemporary Canadian poetry may be a good idea:
1. A diffused sense of identity, defined by the vast Canadian landscape, its shores, quiet lakes and woods
Introspection and reflection - two primary tools when writing poems - are invariably influenced by the scenery in which an author lives and moves - in this case the massive Canadian terra firma.
Here is how Richard Greene, depicts this emblematic scenery in Utopia:
“An immense acreage of solitude.
I am always here
On a hillside of quartz and juniper,
A ridge over water
Where the whales blow and dive”
2. Modernity, sophistication and elegance
It can be argued - whether we agree or not - that poetry is similar to fashion - tastes evolve quickly, modernity and sophistication take preeminence over trusted values on literary runways - which make this form of art ever so exciting.
In the rush to new aesthetics, the craft of many Canadian poets sets markers of timeless elegance:
"This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:
the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls
the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember."
In the book Eunoia by Christian Bŏk, a book for
"the new ennui
ideas hover over a terrain of linguistic experiments and the book's poetics, openly displayed, but hard to imitate, resides in the juggling of constraints in a jig-saw puzzle of lipograms:
“Minds grim with nihilism still find first light inspir-
ing. Mild pink in tint, its shining twilight brings bright
tidings which lift sinking spirits. With firm will, I finish
climbing, hiking till I find this inviting inn, in which
I might sit, dining. I thirst. I bid girls bring stiff drinks…”
Dionne Brand's verses build an atmosphere from fragments of images, and through this collage, new emotions emerge:
"would I have had a different life
failing this embrace with broken things,
iridescent veins, ecstatic bullets, small cracks
in the brain, would I know these particular facts,
how a phrase scars a cheek, how water
dries love out, this, a thought as casual
as any second eviscerates a breath"
4. A diversity of voices
It's easy to feel at home in the Canadian literary community, given the diversity of its voices, that bring new dimensions to poetry:
"in the night’s metal hum, we climb to the roof, feet heat-swollen. you give
me what I need and I still need it. contact. blackout. a missile seeking heat."
5. A connection with Canada's indigenous past and present
Canada's indigenous past and present is a tie that binds us all within the Canadian cultural climate.
Reading Canadian poetry brings to the forefront a heritage whose facets continue to fascinate:
"A human body is
reminiscent of a sentence
in that it too can taste like dust.
Remember, a man is a fable
that does not convey a moral, I said."
A useful resource: Canadian Poetry Online.
Irina Moga is a Toronto based poetry aficionado.