Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April is National Poetry Month: Celebrate Dead Canadian Poets Society!

April has been declared as National Poetry Month!  Being a proud CBC aka Canadian-born Chinese, since Tuesday April 5th, 2011 I've been musing over how to pay our respect for our dead Canadian poets.  What's the significance of this date, you might dare ask? Qing Ming Festival or Tomb Sweeping Day takes place 106 days after the winter solstice, and in 2011, it happens to fall on April 5th!  This little-known Chinese ghost festival is a day of paying respect to the dead. Those of you who attended the Second Chinatown Foodies Walk or the Haunted Kensington, Chinatown & The Grange Walk scheduled  around that date, will recall that more often than not, pragmatic folks will defer this tomb cleaning/sweeping to a later and of course, much warmer date or season as in the case of my own family.

Now, how can we pay our respects?  Remember that wonderful 1989 drama film, Dead Poets Society with actors Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard, and Josh Charles? Well, I figure I would start off by compiling a list of amazing famous deceased Canadian poets who should be immortalized.  

The Dead Canadian Poets Society:
Earle Birney (1904-1995), 
Irving Layton (1912-2006), 
Gwendolyn MacEwan (1941-1987), 
John McCrae (1872-1918), 
Susanna Moodie (1803-1885),  
E.J. Pratt (1882-1964), 
Al Purdy (1918-2000) and Carol Shields (1935-2003).

Lucy Maud Montgomery, OBE (1874-1942) 

Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery is an amazing, prolific writer better known by average person for the novel, Anne of Green Gables, though she wrote a series of Anne books, then Emily, and Pat.   Along the Swansea & LM Montgomery Walks,  I love introducing walkers to Jane by reading excerpts from the novel, Jane of Lantern Hill that connect with the author's actual final home, Journey's End and the surrounding homes of 1935. Since we're paying tribute to dead Canadian poets, I thought it'd be fitting to feature a poem of hers. Enjoy as you discover another side of this amazing Canadian author! 

The Difference

When we were together, heart of my heart, on that unforgotten quest, 
With your tender arm about me thrown and your head upon my breast, 
There came a grief that was bitter and deep and straitly dwell with me, 
And I shunned it not, so sweet it was to suffer and be with thee. 

And now when no more against mine own is beating thine eager heart, 
When thine eyes are turned from the glance of mine and our ways are far apart, 
A dear and long-sought joy has come my constant guest to be, 
And I love it not, so bitter it is, unfelt, unshared, by thee.
- Lucy Maud Montgomery (November 30, 1874-April 24, 1942)

Along my popular Kensington Foodies Roots Walks, there's equal portion of food for thought and the palate!  My way of sharing a bit of Canadian culture with all of my guests: Reciting the wonderful poem by the late Canadian poet, Irving Layton.  This poem also gives me an excuse to dole out tasty black Moroccan olives for folks to try, and it beautifully ties-in to the changing faces of immigrants within the residential and marketplace quarters of colourful Kensington neighbourhood of 2011 compared to those when he arrived in town.  He wrote this poem in the 1970s when his friends brought him to the market to get his apartment set-up after he was invited to teach at York University in Toronto.  Bon appetite!

Ode to the Olives

O those lovely black corrupt olives. 
Nowhere else have I seen such generous ones winking at me with moist eyes of a thousand Fatimas. 
I lost my heart to them on my first visit and haunt the place every since. 
Fondly I gaze at them and the crowds diverse as the maps of the world. 
They hunger for sensations only this fabulous realm can gratify. 
Wordsworth was turned on by daffodils. 
My flowers are the faces I pluck from Kensington's pavements:
Oriental, Jamaican, Slovak, Jewish, Italian, Wasp.
Nothing so moves me as their varied hues. 
- Irving Layton, OC (March 12, 1912 - January 4, 2006) 

On the Haunted Yorkville, U of T & Queen's Park walks,  guests are spooked by the use of history I slip in to shed light on the weird sightings. The memorial wall  at St Michael's College, and then the WWI and WWII wall /walkway by Hart House haunt many guests even further ...  If you look carefully, you will spy with your own eyes, the poem you learnt from memory in early childhood... and you discover that the poet graduated from Victoria College, the very grounds walked along the ghost walk ...

In Flanders Fields 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the Dead.  Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 
                        - John McCrae (November 30, 1872- January 28, 1918)

Happy National Poetry Month! 

Did I miss any of your favourite dead Canadian poet?
Who else should be included in the Dead Canadian Poets Society? 

1 comment:

  1. April 2011 Poll: Who's Your Favourite Dead Canadian Poet?


    Tied for First Place:
    Irving Layton & LM Montgomery

    3-Way tie for Second Place:
    - John McCrae
    - Al Purdy
    - Carol Shields