title description
Biography Anne Burke is a poet, editor and critic, who has published widely, in books, journals, literary magazines. She was Prairie Correspondent for Poetry Canada Review and is Chair of the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets.
Alberta Premiers of the Twentieth Century

Review of Alberta Premiers of the Twentieth Century, edited by Bradford J. Rennie (Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2004) 298 pp. paper Indexed $24.95.

The contents are organized according to Party Affiliation, “The Liberal Premiers: 1905-1921”, Alexander C. Rutherford, 1905-1910, Arthur L. Sifton, 1910-1917, Charles Stewart, 1917-1921.The United Farmers of Alberta Premiers: 1921-1935 were: Herbert W. Greenfield, 1921-1925, John E. Brownlee, 1925-1934, and Richard Reid, 1934-1935. The Social Credit Premiers: 1935-1971 were: William Aberhart, 1935-1943, Ernest Manning, 1943-1968, Harry Strom, 1968-1971. The Progressive Conservatives: 1971-present were: Peter Lougheed, 1971-1985, Don Getty, 1985-1992, and Ralph Klein, 1992-2006.

The editor respects what he terms the “non-partisan rhetoric” of Alberta’s Premiers and the argument of Alberta being defended against Ottawa, especially with the National Energy Policy. Rennie is the author of The Rise of Agrarian Democracy: The United Farmers and Farm Women of Alberta, 1909-1921.

The Editor’s “Introduction” describes the entries as a collection of “mini-biographies” by experts in their respective fields, with scholarly notes. Frederick W.G. Haultain, who was the Premier of the North-West Territories, is described in passing as “Premier of the Future Alberta and Saskatchewan. (See: a companion volume, Saskatchewan Premiers of the Twentieth Century, edited by Gordon L. Barnhart, in the same series.)

There were twelve Premiers who followed him, some managerial or populist in style, and some have been more successful than others. Alberta never re-elected a defeated Party. However, with the advent of the Wild Rose there has been a dramatic change in how we view the Opposition in the Legislature.

Alexander Rutherford (1857-1940) was a Minister of Education and his Department approved 140 new schools, while he initiated a government telephone system. He ignored women’s issues and female suffrage, but was responsible for a new University and Provincial Archives, (Note: “advise” should be “advice” (p. 10) The creation of the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) occurred in 1909.

Arthur L. Sifton (1858-1921) practiced social reform, as, in 1916, Alberta was the third province, after Saskatchewan and Manitoba, to grant women the vote. He also promoted highways for automobiles and agricultural colleges. Alberta was prepared to sacrifice when war broke out in 1914 and conscription was necessary in 1917. He resigned from the Province and was made a Minister in the federal government.

Charles Stewart (1868-1946) presided over the first women to be elected to a Canadian Legislature. He permitted alcohol as medicine during Prohibition. Henry Wise Wood encouraged farmers to vote. When no Liberals were elected in Alberta, Sifton was asked to join Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s Liberal minority government, in 1921. Sifton was buried in Beachwood Cemetery, in Ottawa.

Herbert W. Greenfield (1869-1949) began as a community leader, faced the worst farm abandonment, as well as economic collapse, and coal mining union strikes. He resigned from government and became an oil and gas executive, more successful as a businessman.

John E. Brownlee (1883-1961) found success in the United Farmers of Alberta Party, when he was recruited by Henry Wise Wood. Alberta felt forced to support Catholic schools due to a federal rider on Education and may have preferred a public school system. He was a keynote speaker; he signed the agreements that finally brought to Alberta control over its Crown lands and resources, in 1930. This change applied to all three Prairie Provinces.

A meeting in Calgary in 1923 led to the formation of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), after which allegiance of the UFA was transferred to Social Credit, in 1935. Brownlee was responsible for the Bank of Canada and an advocate for western Canada. Like Bill Clinton he denied having sexual relations with a young woman who brought suit against him and she was successful. He returned to the practice of law and became the President of the United Grain Growers Ltd., in 1953.

Richard Reid (1879-1980) replaced Brownlee when he resigned and he was the shortest-serving Alberta Premier. He practiced dentistry, hence “Premier-Elect Once Pulled Molars.” (p. 108) He was Association President of the UFA, in 1929. He was Minister for Herbert Greenfield from 1921-1935. In 1928, he supported sterilization of “mental defectives” (p. 109). He was part of the birth of the Alberta Wheat Pool. He fought against more provincial support of “indigents”, since municipalities had to pay 10% of old-age pensions.

He was reelected in 1916 and 1930, while others were “mired” in scandals and the opposition “licked its chops” (p. 112) His health-paid plan never materialized. His government was replaced by Social Credit which, at one point, promised to pay dividends of $25 a month and lower prices to consumers. The Alberta-adapted “Douglas System of Alberta” was criticized by Major Douglas supporters and one recommendation was that it must be a Dominion plan under the BNA Act. When the UFA and UFWA (“Undernourished Fool Women of Alberta”, according to Aberhart) did not sufficiently endorse the plan, Aberhart organized a Social Credit political movement. Although Reid invited both Douglas and Aberhart to advise his government,

Reid did not believe Aberhart could devise a useful Social Credit plan. He did, nonetheless, confess faith in the general principles of Social Credit. In the political climate of the day, especially in farm circles, to do otherwise was to court disaster. (p. 116)

In an attempt to suppress the press from reporting salacious details, the UFA government was compared with Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler.

Or would the farmer government, like the people of Rohan be saved from the legions of Uruk-hai by the Christ-like wizard Gandalf, who suddenly appeared—magnificent in splendour, the sunrise radiant behind him—on the hill overlooking Helm’s Deep? (p. 119)

Reid became a librarian for Canadian Utilities Limited in Edmonton and an Honourary member of the Edmonton Library Association.

William Aberhart (1878-1943) has been studied in some detail, his government having been described as paranoid; he was elected due to mob psychology, his policies are described as reactionary, radical and right-wing. His radio broadcasts as a preacher with the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute made him popular with the public. He was a workaholic, who condemned movies but attended some of them. Ernest C. Manning was his theological student and they wrote a play together about the Anti-Christ.

Some British followers of Douglas were tied with European fascism. Aberhart devised a pyramid scheme for the Westbourne Baptist Church and published the “Yellow Pamphlet” promising free education and health care, as well as $75 a month dividends. He asked Prime Minister R.B. Bennett for a federal loan to keep Alberta from bankruptcy. There was no separation of church from state. He implemented a recall system and free treatment for tuberculosis patients. Canadian currency was replaced by Alberta Prosperity Certificates. The Alberta Treasury Branches, the Provincial marketing Board, and the Oil and Gas Conservation Board were founded. A Social Credit Board was appointed and an Alberta Social Credit police force formed for enforcement. The Lieutenant-Governor resisted signing legislation into law and it was eventually declared beyond the scope of the province. When Aberhart promised a $100 a month dividend, he was reelected, but with a much-reduced majority. He helped to derail the Rowell-Sirois Royal Commission. “[H]e grew increasingly conspiratorial and intellectually irrational.” (p. 144) relying on numerology, while there was suspicion during the Second World War that he was sending coded messages to the enemy in his radio broadcasts, so his sermons had to be vetted and no longer delivered live.

Ernest Manning (1908-1996) was Provincial Secretary and Acting Premier for Aberhart. Social Credit opposed the social reconstruction plans and promoted self-reliance of the individual. He was a Mason and a Baptist and renounced anti-Semitism. He expelled anti-Semites from the movement and his government. He focused on spending on social services and infrastructure, with the business community, and was anti-socialism. The Alberta Marketing Act of 1939 allowed the province the right to buy, sell, or manufacture any product. The Alberta Government Insurance Office sold fire and life insurance. In 1947 oil was discovered in Leduc. He supported the state of Israel in 1948. In 1949, Alberta passed the Gas Resources Preservation Act to help provincial control. Municipalities complained about low combined provincial-municipal taxation and insufficient availability of low interest provincial loans to cities. Unlike Ontario and Quebec, American companies were willing to invest in Alberta. The Energy Resources Conservation Board operated at arm’s length from the government. After the 1952 election, there was a flood of allegations from the opposition about corruption. But, organizing against Social Credit was “like chiseling against granite”. (p. 170) If a pipeline passes over a provincial boundary, it falls under federal legislation. Nova Corporation was born. Alberta subsidized health care for low-income Albertans, in 1963.

The party discontinued the preferential ballot system for electing M.L.A.s. By 1957, the province led the country in spending on public services. By the late 1950s, the province gave municipalities one-third of revenues collected from the oil industry. A recession developed in the late 1950s, so government spending was used as an economic stimulus. No debt was used but pay-as-you-go. Manning opposed most of the universal social programs, offered by the federal government, except the Canada Pension Plan. Social Credit won the 1967 election. Peter Lougheed was the new Progressive Conservative leader who led the 1970s, a major upset. The National Social Credit Party was “hopeless” but preferred a national progressive Conservative Party with new ideas. (p. 175) Manning would have led a national Party but was not asked to do so. He opposed universal health care introduced in Saskatchewan in the 1960s. The national plan meant that Alberta had to pay whether or not Albertans benefited. He retired in 1968. He accepted a directorship with a major Canadian bank and agreed to take a Senate seat. He concluded that the Senate needed to be restructured or abolished.

When a Liberal visited Alberta he learned that four of the six Liberals were dead and the fifth worked for the Social Credit M.L.A. (p. 168) While oil sold for $2.40 in Manning’s time, it sold for the world price of $40, which was in the late 1970s.

Harry Strom (1914-1984) was “The Last Socred” whose inability to give a speech hurt his political capital. Lougheed promised free health care for those over 65 and he proposed to sell 49% of Alberta Government telephones. The Edmonton Journal backed the PCs. Strom resigned as leader in 1972.

[There were] the grim urban technocrats and puffed-up apparatchiks around Peter Lougheed...within a year of taking office Lougheed and his people were already naming parks and public buildings after themselves. (p. 199)

Peter Lougheed (1928-2012 ) preferred Alberta politics to Ottawa. He used the PCs as a blank slate, to win the leadership, and to gain a majority government. As Socreds used radio, the PCs used television. Theirs was a young urban middle class with an economy of unprecedented wealth. The Syncrude Project was saved in 1975. He believed that Social Credit had set the royalty rate too low. Ottawa announced a federal export tax on oil in 1973. Canada would no longer allow oil companies to deduct provincial royalties from their taxable income. The federal government wanted a larger share of the royalties and a lower price to Canadians. The National Energy Plan rejected the world price. Lougheed countered with cuts in production. Alberta emerged as a major force. Constitutional reform was in the air, although there was a not withstanding clause, and Quebec opted out. The Alberta Energy Company became a major Alberta-based oil and gas company. Alberta purchased the Pacific Western Airlines, in the 1970s. The Alberta Heritage Savings Fund was created in 1976. Lougheed governed with large majorities, especially after the 1975 election. There was a severe recession in 1982. He resigned in 1985. Peter Lougheed “can be seen as the principal architect of modern Alberta.” (p. 227) Note: “Ernest Manning was the architect of the modern Alberta.” (p. 177)

Don Getty (1933- ) was born in Westmount, Quebec and he started a career in the oil patch, when he was invited to run. Getty took credit for Alberta Energy Company and wanted Senate reform. He won a second ballot victory in 1985 against Ron Gitter for the leadership. With the energy market collapse, in the 1990s, his government faltered with a $2.5 billion budget deficit or $1 billion and rising to $3 billion. Some banks failed, with farms and real estate investments. He passed the Senatorial Selection Act in 1989. The Principal Group filed for bankruptcy in 1987. Although he won a second term, his poll numbers were down. He recruited Ralph Klein, “an unreliable upstart” to the Party. (p. 248) Getty pushed ahead with saw mills, when Klein was Environment Minister. There was the sale of stock of AGT to Telus Corp in 1990. NovAtel was a disappointing experiment which cost $600 million.

Ralph Klein (1942-) did not excel in school and his parents were divorced. He would also divorce and marry again. He joined the Air Force and the Calgary Business College, before becoming a TV reporter. Klein was elected Mayor of Calgary and won three straight victories. Although he was believed to be a Liberal, he won Calgary Elbow and the PC leadership on the second ballot. He attacked the deficit, by passing the Deficit Elimination Act, and eliminated the M.L.A. pension plan. The Klein Revolution was in progress. Alberta was compared with New Zealand, with an Alberta Advantage. The economy recovered.

Although the collected essays and timeline end with Ralph Klein in office, he has since retired, after being routed out of the PC Party by voting delegates at a Leadership Review, in 2006. He left many opponents vying for the title and Ed Stelmach (born 1951), a long-time supporter, was victorious on the second ballot. He won a resounding success in the election by making many promises. With this mandate, he undertook a review of royalties, breaking contracts with some oil and gas companies. The unintended consequences made him unpopular, and he announced he would not seek a second term. He returned to his Alberta ranch in 2011.

Alison Redford, (born 1965) a former member of Stelmach’s cabinet and a federal Conservative, won the provincial PC leadership on the second ballot. She faced opposition from the Wild Rose Party, made up of disenchanted fiscal conservatives. The remnants of Reform, Alliance, and federal Conservatives are led by Danielle Smith, a former school trustee. The Calgary Public School Board was deemed dysfunctional and “fired” by the Progressive Conservative provincial government. After a fierce contest, Redford’s Party was elected with a majority government, in 2012. The promises she had made to teachers, doctors, nurses, and others will be sorely felt, given the estimated $1 billion deficit.

Ralph Klein suffers from a debilitating medical condition and received the Order of Canada via his wife Colleen. Peter Lougheed was admitted to a hospital named for him and passed away at age 84 from a heart condition. Even at his age, he endorsed and campaigned for Redford, and was still so well respected that he has been termed “easily at the top of Canada’s best Premiers.”

Anne Burke

Divining Margaret Laurence

Review of Divining Margaret Laurence: A Study of Her Complete Writings, by Nora Foster Stovel (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008) 406 pp. Indexed paper $29.95.

It is important to remember that what Laurence complains of, in her interview with Graeme Gibson, partner of Margaret Atwood, was absolutely true, that “some of my work, particularly The Fire-Dwellers, received some real put-downs from a number of male reviewers.  They didn’t even say it was a bad novel, it was just that, if anybody like Stacey existed, they just would rather not know” (p. 350, note 21).  For example, one of my professors of Education at McArthur College, Queen’s University, demanded to know if I had read some new novel “about fire.”  When I admitted that I had, he asked me what “was in it”, because his otherwise contented, albeit house-bound wife, was “totally different” after reading it.  Female academics like Helen Buss defended her as their topic of research, when (all-male) examiners opined that work on D.H. Lawrence was legitimate, while the sound-alike Margaret Laurence (who?) a pretender, was “nothing but a housewife”.  So little-regarded too were (female) part-time graduate students, ably balancing class work with home and family, relegated to those who had no chance at “serious” tenure-track careers.  Thus, the ascent of the Independent Scholar was birthed.

Foster Stovel not only serves up a credible examination of Laurence’s oeuvre, in relation to the contexts of Bildungsroman and Künstlerroman, she also manages to punctuate the text with allusions to recent female theorists of autobiography, as well as comments on characters like “Rachel and Stacey [who] do not engage in specifically feminist activity...they do exhibit a budding feminist consciousness that is easy to overlook when a 1990s reader focuses on their enmeshment in patriarchal domestic arrangements and mindsets” (p. 349-50, note 20.)

Much has been made of “Taking Stock: The Calgary Conference on the Canadian Novel” held at the University of Calgary in 1982, which I attended.  It is true that Laurence “topped List A”, heading the best 100 books and she book-ended List B, framing the top ten Canadian novels, with The Stone Angel as number one and The Diviners as number ten.” (p. 342, note 1).  It needs to be mentioned that this may have had as much to do with their paperback publication in McClelland and Stewart’s New Canadian Library Series (edited by Malcolm Ross) as it did with their intrinsic merit, a possibility Margaret Laurence vociferously pointed out at the time.   Foster Stovel offers a fresh evaluation of Laurence’s books for children which may have been dismissed for lack of serious critical attention.  She considers Laurence’s journalistic and semi-journalistic essays, in newspaper, magazine, and academic publications.  There is an extensive list of “Works Cited”, from which passages are paraphrased in the body of the text, and citations of these sources appear in the substantial end notes.
Foster Stovel states she had access to the Laurence estate containing unpublished material, including an unfinished novel “Dance on the Earth” (not to be confused with her memoir of the same title) and final journal.  She examined the Laurence manuscripts at McMaster University (holograph notes and drafts for the unfinished novel were not available until 1997, when they formed an accession of material in the Margaret Laurence Fonds, of the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections, at McMaster University’s Mills Memorial Library); and her correspondence and papers, containing notes, typescripts of novels, and requests for revisions, at York University.
(I recall asking a York University archivist for permission to consult the newly-acquired collection some years earlier and receiving a curt response to the effect there was a twenty-five caveat.)   Furthermore, this critic reviewed issues of Annals of the Black and Gold (stored in the Margaret Laurence Home in Neepawa) in which Laurence published poems and stories.  Other juvenilia were contained in Vox, (for which Laurence served as assistant editor) at the University of Winnipeg and the Manitoban archived in the University of Manitoba Library.  Foster Stovel cites the original introduction to Long Drums and Cannons (which was not published in the 1968 edition but is quoted by Foster Stovel in her introduction to the 2001 edition.) She cites the occasions when Laurence was inspired to compose the African stories, including one not included in standard Laurence bibliographies and which has not been discussed by critics, in spite of its significance. She refers to recollections by a former mayor of Neepawa-and-a- contemporary of Margaret Laurence and by another source who remarked that Laurence displayed talent in high-school English class.  As such, Foster Stovel builds on the existing critical infrastructure of biographies by James King, Donez Xiques, and Lyall Powers, as well as editions of Laurence’s letters by John Lennox, Ruth Panofsky, Paul Socken, and J.A. Wainwright.

This critic is correct in that Laurence “predicted that The Diviners, the final of her five Manawaka novels, would be her last.” (p. 265) However, Laurence made these predictions about other junctures in her career, much to the dismay of post-graduate students whose theses and dissertations took these predictions to be fact.  In this instance, she was prescient  Though the novel was intended to wind up all the threads of the Manawaka cycle, who is to say it would have been “Laurence’s grand finale, her farewell to fiction[?]” (p. 269) That she intended the unfinished novel to be the finale of the Manawaka cycle is clear; what is not is why she was incapable of completing it, leaving this issue to conjecture by scholars.  Foster Stovel weighs in, by advancing the theory, based on Laurence’s notes and letters, it was too painful and too personal, not removed geographically and temporally from her life, from which she was seeking refuge.  Yet, Laurence retained hope that she was merely putting aside the project “temporarily” to work on her memoirs and “let it [the novel] simmer on the back burner.” (p. 281)  It could be an interesting experiment if some writer can be found to finish this novel (as Jane Austen enthusiasts have done) and/or to complete a sequel, like Gone With the Wind,  Mitchell’s classic novel.

What I would like to add is, that while Laurence “mastered” (not gender-neutral) the full extent of mother-daughter relationships, at least in fiction, what escaped and ultimately silenced her was her attempt at a novel which Foster Stovel says “would have highlighted that maternal-filial relationship even more centrally.” (p. 273) Instead, Laurence celebrated the matrilineal legacy in her memoir of the same name, “Dance on the Earth.”  Foster Stovel muses, “Perhaps she was unable to get inside the heads of people as closed-minded as [Minister] Jake Flood (or Sam Buick).” (p. 281) Laurence had written male characters into her novels at a time when it was widely accepted that, while male authors could concoct brilliant female characters which we should accept without questioning, female authors, if they wrote anything other than “bosom-ripping” romances, were incapable of writing genuinely authentic male characters.  Was this a factor in the delay, mitigated by health issues, the death of her brother from pancreatic cancer, her own depression?  I have a difficult time reading about her life reduced to “addictions, alcohol and nicotine.” One of the themes which reverberated for me was her profound sense of patriarchy, by which it felt as if your father, if he could, would kill you.  Here we find the male principle, incarnated as overbearing grandfather; the undependable, intermittent lover; the person of authority; whether that was a paternalistic publisher, an English Professor who finds you wanting or a husband who is indifferent to his wife’s career aspirations, to the extent it necessitated divorce (in order for her brilliance to shine) and her endurance of precarious economic challenges.

Laurence regarded all her books as “gifts of grace”.  As Foster Stovel points out, Laurence explains, in her memoir, “I’ve never been able to force a novel.  I have always had the sense of something being given to me.  You can’t...force into being something that isn’t there.”   Rather, she left behind notes about the Holy Spirit which was, in her opinion, at least partially, female.  When she tried to write in the name of the Father and the Son, what she successfully produced was written in the name of the Holy Female.

Anne Burke


Review of Sharawadji, by Bran Henderson (London, Ontario: Brick, 2011) 88pp. paper $19

The title of the collection has several sources: in Upon the Gardens of Epicurus (1685) and The Book of Music and Nature (Wesleyan University Press). One of its meanings is a state of awareness and another is the oriental style of beauty, without order or not easily observed. The title poem comes late in this collection, indeed, subtitled as “The Last Word”.  Furthermore, this beauty takes one by surprise but requires awareness. The aestheticism underscores erudite poetry, otherwise an eclectic mix, generously multi-layered.

According to the poet, many of the poems began as experiments in ekphrasis, reading paintings, “but mutated rather quickly away.” The elements of wind, sand, and light are a composition (“Perfecting Thirst”). Other elements are the factor of time, the future (“The After”); a catalogue or inventory (“The Gleaner”). The definition of form is without distinct outlines, blending one tone into another (“sfumato”) as in the literary and the visual arts or graces. In “City of Heaven”, we witness the volcanic or igneous action of energy on matter.  Thyme eludes the temporal sphere, despite the logged day and month.  In “Test”, although writing devices are not permitted, research is illegal, and the poet ponders the paradox of “a voiceless voice.”  He uses understatement for emphasis (“The Jetty”); juxtaposition of nature with scientific speculation (“The Replicase”); the tide, the ancients, and geological formations (“The Sea, the Valley and the Temple City”).  The night table recurs, as a point of entry, for contemplative and meditative iconography; of departing and returning; Greek myth, Olympian gods made earthly.

In Part 2, “Night Music”, he rhetorically asks about Passacaglia, an old, Italian or Spanish dance tune, in moderately, slow triple time. (“The Before”) We behold the grammatical and the near fanatical in this isotope of pain (“Half-Lives”). Death becomes an intransitive verb, fission. The decay of the atom is synonymous with synopsis of ash.  The typography of leaving (“Last Note”) is inseparable (“Unrespectable”) a reverse umbilical cord. He plays with enumerating, in units of one, six, two, one, twelve, five, and twenty-four. Time is the controller, (“How to Separate the Past for the Future”). The poet as archer, a conventional enough comparison, is in an unconventional simile/facsimile of a Henri Rousseau painting. At the juncture of parental deaths, he is musing on a photograph collection. With inverse proportions, we discover antiphony, anticipatory grief, a totemic tree.  The venues and snapshots of memory align with tingsha stars, tintinabulary sound of bells (in “Night Music”). There are images of warfare, torpedoed, refugees, bone white cloud a harbinger in what will become. Note the irony of “Well”, of not sick or deep plumps,  the depth of his mother’s hospitalization, images of sleep and mothering of love, like a lighthouse (“The Lighthouse Dreamer”). Canthus refers to either of the angles formed by the meeting of the upper and lower eyelids. Miscanthus is in “What Can Never Stop Having Being”. We witness truths about the extended family; more so in her moans of pain (“The Answer”); with reductive images of her suffering and his helplessness.  The poet personifies the dahlia as capable of imagination (“Returning”), in an address to his object of affection; a Coda (after Anne Carson) of the out-breath (moment of death). He delineates this “sigh” in concrete terms; her husband’s death predates hers, although they symbolically together take a “Last Walk in the Garden”.

To some extent, several of these prose poems have the element of the pastiche (italicized with their sources documented).  The fictio or making of the art involves remaking from existing principles.

Part 3 “Like the Sounds of A Grass Fire” he invokes, “that’s everything/at the beginning of everything” (“Things Beckon”).  The coruscations are glitters and sparkles, as well as a flash of wit.  The one true thing is a distillation of sorts, perhaps from a cloud (whether composed of water or blood acts) which acts as a tone. We glimpse Atlantis on the third day (sans resurrection). Some are effigies stars/scars with a metaphor of sewing, a bone needle, and threads which stitch the poet to “night’s sleeve” (“Early Spring Night by the Lake”). In “Himalaya”, the indigenous lammergeiers are large Eurasian vultures, resembling huge falcons.  They are found in mountainous regions from the Pyrenees to northern China. Their setting is the Tower of David or Biblical Babel.  The poet rejects the technique of simile (“not like anything”) in favour of metaphor.  The movement of water, river, pond, associated with heart which is hummingbird.  The mind and thought are composed of hollow bones.  However, the beloved’s body is “like” water, myrrh.  The personified “words stumble” (“Every Part of You Has a Secret Language”).The sprung rhythm of Gerald Manly Hopkins appears in “Nagarjuna and the Grackle”).  The poet interweaves both strong-stress and syllable-and-stress.  He relishes the irony, “I am overtaken by things/for whom I don’t exist.” (“On the Skyline”).  The analogy of hummingbird indicates, “The objects that found you right away” (“Residual Messages”). The room dimensions revert to water.  The retinal eye consists of a sea floor. Time, in the form of minutes, is churned by a water wheel. Emotion, as in anxiety, is converted into liquids.  The binary of “dos and don’ts” appears in the play of light, which is searing, “spooked”, shimmer, glissando, blue, transparent as glass.  In “the Clearing”, rain is personified as having “thin legs walking”.  The house becomes a lily seen by a beetle “with glistening eye.” Light is ultimately “exploding in the clearing.” The x-ray is seen in negative, “a near infrared verb”.  (“The Counter-Tree”.  The voice of water is “spiked, /until the next oblivion.” (“Two Time”) While the door, in “The Clearing”:

keeps getting
smaller, a secret
passage, as narrow as thirst

later becomes a “portal/to everything we can lay claim to” (“Were You to Walk”).  In Part 1 of “Three Quotations”, a thought is compared with an iris, blue with orange, red tail, among stones.  In Part 2, he abides with a”let’s put one word in front of another.”
It appears that time may become “stuck, a stylus in a gouged record.” In Part 3, hearts become wings, for a Protestant in a Catholic Church.  The souls are birds, be they juncos or chickadees.  The Pentecostal “tongues” indicates at least six languages plus another six languages.  The seventh section honours Christian icons, such as towers, continents, angels, etc.  (“The Book That Can Be Read from Its Shelf”)   According to the Endnotes, some of the phrases were found in a now lost manuscript.

In the final part 4, “Previews”, the poet encounters ruin, rain, and word-bloom traffic.  (“Animal Light”) The ash and the queen are signifiers of resistance.  By the river, gills glisten. (“Apocrypha”) Memory is best served by the current of light which beacons thirst, flooding, at a drip-line, with waves, river, lightning. (“A Momentary History of Time, or, The Sheer.” The image of a house rises like a pelican into the river’s memory. (“Poisoned”) A military setting of helicopters without fuel coexists with fear.  “I am not a woman, I am/ a language.” (“Portrait”) A hotel disappears.  Recognition jostles for position with faulty memory. (“Something to Remember the World By”) There is a refrain of “Truth is peregrine” a recurring motif, “it flies through your net”.  (“Among the Harvested”)   The sense of terror is evoked in “The Invasion”, with the landscape “feigning” his presence.  Memories feel like “cut-by-flying-glass” (“The Last”). Minds belong to machetes and the streets are unsafe (“Then”). The trees are alphabetic but burnt out. (“Time Runner”).

Henderson is the author of nine previous collections of poetry, among them Nerve Language (Pedlar Press 2007) which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award.  He has a Ph.D. in Canadian Literature and is the Director of Wilfred Laurier University Press.  He co-edited Rune in the 1970s.  He has been President and Treasurer for the Association of Canadian Publishers. 

Anne Burke

The Truth of Houses

Review of Review of The Truth of Houses, by Ann Scowcroft (London, Ontario: Brick Books, 2011) 128 pp. paper $19.

This is a first book by a professional writer, editor, and academic.  The motif is of building, with an epigraph from The Timeless Way of Building, by Christopher Alexander (Oxford University Press, 1979). The reference pertains to a recurrent pattern of events which serves to replace inherent chaos by an imposed sense of order. Further, we come back to ourselves, which we have forgotten. The tone, at times, is bittersweet.

She catalogues icons and emblems which evoke the past, including photos and rosary beads. (“Wanted”) Instead of fame, she became a common noun, such as “wife, mother, teacher–” (“Thirty-nine”) She issues a “Letter to my Mother”, with words and clauses, in which she compares emphysema with that which “you would/have said, of what you meant/to say, if only.”

The poet recounts a moving event revealed by her great aunt, this hard-won farm-wife”, during the family’s motor trip.  That is, a sister was institutionalized, due to never marrying, as an independent-minded woman “in the pre-feminist millennia.” In contrast with her sympathy in this instance, she shares “a funny story my mother used to tell.”

In correspondence, she seeks to comfort a long-time girlfriend. who has been re-institutionalized.  (“Dear Leah”) She recalls her apprenticeship to womanhood (“Kathy”) in “this list compiled for the pleasure of ticking off.” Her son becomes a hunter (“Late chinook”) and, ironically, is himself wounded and bloody (“Poise”)

In the long prose poem “(Palimpsest”) she structures her contemplations and meditations by means of “true or false” statements.  One of the many underlying assumptions is that “it is dangerous for a mother to expose the root of a lie.” Another is “whether it is appropriate to claim that an event is only meaningful in context.” Therefore she situates some experience in time, for example, “summer of 1942” and age “fifty/love”. However, other themes are quixotic memory, the brain, as well as the wind.  Life is not like a novel but it does unfold like a game of scrabble. 

The title poem indicates “five truths”: light, motion, trees, windows, and peace. Houses are personified to approximate the wishes and demands of their inhabitants.  For example, the nostalgia for: “Our home was small, square, secure” (“Atakkặvacara”). However, the French language is inhospitable to her patios in Quebec and she embraces her foreignness in Ganesh, “with the forgiveness of a stranger.” Her husband views her as foreign (“Foreigner”)

She offers a “rough” translation of Mignonne by Ronsard in a dichotomy or response-driven dialogue. In a take-off from John Keats, she is disappointed by an artist in a Montréal cul-de sac. (“À la belle soeur”).  A child conceived but never born haunts her (“Phantom”)

The house is described as square, old, and prim, while she feels fear.  Like the house, she “yearns for release” and wants to “fly away towards unknown lands.” (“Quotidian”) She fears hospital life and dying. (“Addendum to Dear Leah”)  Meanwhile, she must rely on her body again. (“Forty-two year-old woman takes tennis lessons”)

She comforts another by invoking, “imagine our home in daylight” (“Second storey”) in order to remind him of “what makes us safe, and what makes a home”.  She fears her mother’s and her husband’s rage.  In domestic matters, there is “only ever a Scene One.” (“Love poem”) Their marriage survives, just one more day, because “now it simply takes too much effort/not to love each other.” (“Dukkha”).

There are violent images; she begins to have “an arsonist’s dreams, the field aflame, [and] the house/poised to combust.” (Atakkặvacara”) She is aware of “submarine gun fire” and that a bomb had exploded. (“Observation.”)

There is a multiple choice “Checklist” regarding biology, speech, and gravity.  There are precisely six ways to “sublimate rain”, yet there is no rain, simply one’s desire.  She seeks consensus with reference to a corollary.  Her body is a “mandala”, an Aeolian harp stroked by wind.

In “Learning” she reflects on children learning to read, with this “hand-cranked language” a replacement of Cyrillic by English. Her lower lip, exposing incisors, and clamping down only helps to decode the language, while her son learns independence. Girls learn shame from their fathers and grandfathers, with music from the spheres (“One morning near Boston”) Synapses represent her own learning (“Stillness”)

In “Selected excerpts from the atlas of desire” she enumerates what she calls “the alphabet of the mouth”, namely palatal, glottal, dental, bilabial, alveolar, velar, uvular, which may have been drawn from her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics.  However, I recall learning these at Teacher’s College, by using a mirror, before teaching children to read by means of phonetics.

She concludes “There are certain rooms currently closed” (“Residuum”) and her primary relationship of “Us” is “a perpetual renovation.”  The individual “I” is described as possessing “mellifluous arcana” and “rococo flabbergast”, so it remains necessarily secondary.   

A child remains in “the ordinary room” (“First birth”) until it is time (“First child leaves home”).  Even the metal screws are orphaned (“What remains”).

In keeping with the recurring motif, the illustrations for this collection were documentary evidence prepared by draughtsmen (draughtswomen).

Anne Burke

That Other Beauty

Review of That Other Beauty, by Karen Enns (London, Ontario, Brick Books, 2010) 80 pp. paper $19.

There are forty-nine poems divided into three sections in this first collection.

In Part I, the poet approached a familiar field with new awareness of her surroundings. She associates the image of “hand” with fifteen metaphors, inspired by a line by Robert Bringhurst, in Sultra of the Heart.  Music and song will turn to dark and rags.  The “aftersense of hand” originates in a dream of a baby hawk.  She ponders “That Other Beauty” despite grief, anger, and censored ways.  A woman’s voice sounds like “winter bells”.  She keenly observes family members at a farmer’ market and participates.  Prior to the escape from last year’s field, house painter boards a bus.  Her attention to detail includes the constricted physical relationship. She ponders the meaning of death, based on the remains of a cat.  There are variations on the metaphor of death as hand, door, and towels. She regards herself as the stranger when she interacts with a woman from Nigeria, although the other knows nothing of the poet’s origins.  Home is what the hands are doing. Neighbours are invasive ghosts.  She expresses her feelings about leaving, admitting her realization that she is unloved and, therefore, cannot go back to her former life.  The snow has hands.

Part II we read her contemplations at McNab: the light is flat-handed, there are bird tracks in the snow, and she has feelings about losing her sense of belonging. She exchanges necessity for wanderlust in the mathematical grid of urban streets. Old homeless men feed the birds.  The city bench gives way to those of a train station, in Moscow, in 1929.  Expulsion and the dispossessed are compared with birds (raven, magpies, crows, gulls, sparrows) and willow canes. The martyrs emerge, devoid of luck. Others are reacting from bathing at Fort Elgin, in September, the conditions of vision defined by varieties of light. There is a no man’s land of a homeless person and her hesitation; a blaze of sunflowers and deluge of bird calls. The divine preacher is a performance artist. Her brother is another type of artist, because he prunes trees, similar to her “white words, facing out”. There is violence against a collage. Poverty is “hand to the lion’s mouth”.

Part III she expresses her nostalgia for another time of quiet and trust, peace and order, for instance, the Edenic gathering of cherry, pear, and strawberries. Time was “just out of reach” and place was “the distant line/still distant.”  There are herons, hummingbirds, and the hand which takes you to silence; before retreat, ritual matters, in half-light and afterlight; ripening and the last of the season.

Figurative language is employed in the alliterative assonance of “wheeze” and “wisteria”, “wind” and “whistling”; half-life and “lied” in an opening phrase, old words, personified “stars flower.”

The poet rejects the science of magnetism and physics, in favour of language-based knowledge, given its own limitations, as in “I have no language for” and therefore cannot comprehend the homeless man with his shopping cart, his “Every day a life”. The city of houses, street lights, weeds, trading orbits at Gordon Point, where trees are like death and their roots push through graves, geese, “grammar and grammar”, open-palmed.

The concluding poem relies on solitude, wind-blown, the totality of “Everything you can and cannot have is here....”

The poet is a classical pianist who grew up in a Mennonite farm community.  Her poetry appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Antigonish Review, Grain Magazine, PRISM international, and The Malahat Review.

Anne Burke


A Diptych or Triptych: Review of outskirts, by Sue Goyette (London, Ontario: Brick Books, 2011) 88 pp. paper $19.

This collection is initially devoted to the domestic experiences of new mothers, who are preoccupied by the minutia of everyday duties, events, and responsibilities. Nevertheless, the poet is obsessed by time passing and struggles to assert primacy in the whirlwind. The first section “my darkness, my cherry tree” of thirty-three poems contains a poem of the same title.  The poet links twilight, illumination, enveloping darkness, by a ladder, and with a man.  Soon, he becomes one of the trees, “a ripe offering”, and “holdng out a bouquet like marriage.”

The poem “Snow Day (#14), following “The New Mothers”, indicates the monotony, punctuated with the attention to detail, which childproofing of an adult world involves. This exhaustion is generational expressed in a refrain adapted from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery (“Obituary”).

There are two poems with the same title, “A Tired Women Lies Down.”  In [1], the image of “snow” pertains to her physical examination, as well as to “feeling her up” sexually in a dark theatre; while the snow is personified as “a godsend. A fairy tale. A blizzard of questions.” Snow traps her, but remains “old-fashioned”, archaic, but, in the colloquial idiom, “so stuck in its time.” In [2], the erotic imagery is elaborated, as in “The snow is on top of her”, equivocally, like a new husband/or dead husband, or “of something in between.”  Her supine position seems to invite figurative invasions, whether by Vegas chapel and crooner; or the gospel of a charismatic priest; altar, feast, and ceremony.  There is the heat of passion, the truncated foreplay of speed-dating; “hot hands”, and “burning” the lovers into awareness.

The second section, “the last animal”, contains nineteen poems, in which there are three poems entitled “fog”, as well as “A.K.A. the Foghorn”, and others associated with sleep and sleeplessness. In “fog” [1] the element is personified as “nomadic”, performing many of the functions for which “snow”, previously, was responsible.  In [2}, the element is personified as polishing the street “on its hands and knees.”  Further, it binds city, ocean, and strangers.  In [3], the analogy extends to mistaken names, a mental fog, resulting in embarrassment.  Interrelated poems are about sleep, or the lack thereof.  There are images of retreating/migrating, the ocean “never repeats itself”. (“The Coastal Headlands of Our Sleep”). These are adapted from government and ecological documentary texts, which are inverted and subverted.

Semiotics is expanded with “holophote action”, seabed/cave, and broad contrary topics, “Attrition, Corrasion, and Abrasion.” (“The Four Main Actions of Sleeplessness”) The children are tentative at the beach, before they learn “how symbiosis works”; dreams act as toothy sharks, when sleep is dangerous. (“Getting Into the Ocean”)

The term “outskirts” is denoted as a part remote from the centre, as in, of a town (usually in the plural) or border. In this instance, the (exemplary) traveller is tired, with the weight and age of temporal dimensions.

The title poem, written as a response to Wendell Berry’s “To Know the Dark” (The Selected Poems, Counterpoint Press) appears at the end of this collection. At one level, the aim is to reach a destination, “Out of the city/Farther than the suburbs.” In addition to physical or spatial movement, we find metaphorical change, for example, from youth to age. There is a movement from the light to the darkness, in which visual images are replaced by auditory. This is a collective call or invocation. The quest is to escape streetlights, in the urban iconography of “condos” and balconies. The speaker asks several rhetorical questions.  One is about the “border to cross or the refugee crossing it.” If so, “How far will you flee?” This involves a cosmology of “galaxies”, “Planets”, equinox”, “caves”, but based on earth, the hunter and the hunted; images of “trapped; bayonets, blades, scythes” What drives this poem is the desire for exploration, reinforced by appetite.  The final line advises, “Patience.  Darkness bears its own sight.  The path is lit by the sound of/our footsteps.”

Goyette has previously published two books of poems, The True Names of Birds (Brick Books) and Undone (Brick Books). Her novel, Lures, was published by HarperCollins. She teaches Creative Writing at Dalhousie University.  She has taught at Sage Hill, the Banff Centre Wired Writing Studio and the Blue Heron Workshop.

Anne Burke

Adele Wiseman: Essays on Her Works

Review of Adele Wiseman: Essays on Her Works, edited by Ruth Panofsky (Guernica: Toronto, 2001) Guernica Writers Series, No. 7, 171 pp. paper $10

Adele Wiseman (1928-1992) was a friend of Margaret Laurence and the majority of her poetry remains unpublished.  I met her at an annual meeting of the Alberta Writers Guild. In passing, she mentioned the role of dolls in her creative process, a topic she discusses at some length in “The Permissible And The Possible”, an Interview conducted by Bruce Meyer and Brian O’Riordan.

This compact collection contains six essays, an Interview, a Biography, and a Selected Bibliography of Primary Works by Wiseman: Novels, Plays, Non-fiction, Short Stories, Children’s Books, Poems, Manuscripts, and Secondary Material. The editor contributes an Introduction, one of the essays, a Biography, and a Selected Bibliography. Panofsky has also produced Adele Wiseman: An Annotated Bibliography (1992) and coeditor of Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence and Adele Wiseman (1997).    An important editorial decision was to read the author beyond the traditional critical focus on her two novels, The Sacrifice (1956) a gendered text against which Wiseman wrote the Crackpot (1974) and the editor, in “From Complicity To Subversion: The Female Subject in Adele Wiseman’s Novels,” offers a feminist reading of the latter.

In a re-reading of The Sacrifice, a paper which was deleted from her dissertation, Donna Palmateer Pensee explores the historical fact of gender and Wiseman’s emerging feminism. Francis Zichy, in another paper, “The Lurianic Background” deals with “Myths of Fragmentation and Wholeness in Adele Wiseman’s Crackpot.” Jon Kertzer, in “Wiseman’s Old Woman At Play And The Structure Of Enigma”, examines Memoir as Epic Romance.  Donna Bennett examines Wiseman as an essayist.  She cites a passage from “The Writer and Canadian Literature”, wherein Wiseman ascribes to fiction the “truth” of fact, “Because I believe this to be so I have tried to develop the habit of treating even facts as though they were fiction.” (p. 105). Elizabeth Greene, who offered a call for papers for a proposed 1995 ACCUTE conference on Wiseman, focuses on the last decade of largely unpublished and inaccessible imaginative work, including Wiseman’s lyric poetry (1981-1986). A complete critical assessment of Wiseman’s literary achievement is not yet possible.

According to Wiseman, who was born in Winnipeg,

I’ve always felt that I carry the Prairie with me. I think most people do carry their landscapes with them and make decisions in terms of those internal landscapes.     (p. 150)

Anne Burke

Aritha van Herk: Essays on Her Works

Review of Aritha van Herk: Essays on Her Works, edited by Christyl Verdun (Guernica: Toronto, 2001) Guernica Writers Series, No. 5, 126 pp. paper, $10.

When van Herk won the Seal Books (Canada) $50,000 First Novel Award for Judith, few knew she was a student of Rudy Wiebe.  The editor met her at a Canadian Studies conference in Iceland in 1999.  Verdun is the author of five books, including Lifelines: Marian Engel’s Writings, which won the 1995 Gabrielle Roy Book Prize.

The pamphlet contains an Introduction, Brief Biography, essay about the Dutch in van Herk’s writing, Interview with van Herk by Verdun, and List of additional Resources which Verdun co-wrote; with four essays, a “Selected Bibliography” of Primary Work: Novels, Essay Collections, Edited Works, Essays and Articles; with Secondary Works: Book Reviews, Articles and Book Chapters, Manuscript Papers, Dissertations, and Interviews.  For a comprehensive listing of resources, see: Aritha van Herk fonds, Special Collections, University of Calgary.  The bibliographer Karin Beeler also maintains a list of resources on the web.

In “Go North Young Woman”, Marlene Goldman examines “Representations Of The Arctic In The Writings Of Aritha van Herk.”, specifically, No Fixed Address, Places Far From Ellesmere, and The Tent Peg.  This paper was previously published in Echoing Silence: Essays on Artic Narrative, Reappraisals Series (University of Ottawa Press, 1997.)   Robert Budde, in “The Aesthetics of Annihilation: The Restless Text And The Reader As Assassin”, provides a close reading of the novel Restlessness.  Robert Kroetsch offers “Circle the Wagons, Girls: Here the Bastards Come” in response to the same novel.  He adds this, “Travel haunts Calgary writing.” (p. 65) Isabel Carrera Suárez, in her essay on van Herk was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s  essay of the same name, “Professions for Women”, edited by Michéle Barrett (London: The Women’s Press, 1979, pp. 57-63).  She examines “Un/Classified Stories” and alludes to the Marxist-Feminist Literature Collective.

Anne Burke

Al Purdy: Essays on His Works

Review of Al Purdy: Essays on His Works, edited by Linda Rogers (Guernica: Toronto, 2003) Guernica Writers Series No. 9, 165 pp. paper $10

This collection is “a gathering of friends”, as Rogers states, and “There are many Al Purdy stories”, as she characterizes each contributor, one by one; but, this compendium is more than that, a useful primer for beginners, and a convenient source for others.  While the academic rigour varies, and only some essays contain a list of “Works Cited”, their interest and relevance never wanes.

There are ten essays, of which one, a poem, and the introduction are by the editor, with a Bibliography of Purdy’s Books of Poetry, from The Enchanted Echo, 1944 to Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems of Al Purdy 2000; ten other titles of nonfiction and a novel; six Books Edited; a Cassette Tape (1986), and a Compact Disc (1999).

The first essayist poses “This complex portrait of Purdy’s muse is not of the male poet’s conventionally female muse, but of a male strongly marked, perhaps even dominated, by the feminine.” (p. 50) Dragland’s “Al Purdy’s Poetry: Openings” a substantial critical essay (pp. 15-57) analyzing twelve titles, beginning with Pressed on Sand (1955) to The Collected Poems of Al Purdy (1986), was previously published in The Bees at the Invisible: Essays on Canadian Writing.

Michael Ondaatje makes a relatively brief contribution, which was a “Foreward To: Beyond Remembering: The Collected Poems Of Al Purdy (2000).

Rosemary Sullivan, in “Purdy’s Dark Cowboy”, observes “I knew he was a man’s poet; a Canadian cowboy, a man from a Cariboo country...he’s the kind of cowboy I like.” (p. 63). The context is a 1978 conference at the University of Alberta called “Crossing Frontiers”. Her sources are The Collected Poems of Al Purdy (1986) and Morning and It’s Summer: A Memoir (1983).

Dennis Lee, in “The Poetry of Al Purdy”, recognizes from the first collection The Enchanted Echo (1944) “he had made the same journey, from a closed to an open poetic universe, that other, major talents have accomplished in this century.”  (p. 76) Lee identifies the use of polyphony, epiphany, mysterium tremendum, in a keen assessment of Purdy’s stature.

Sam Solecki, author of The Last Canadian Poet: An Essay on Al Purdy, in "Al Purdy Among The Poets”, begins with the late 1970s, Purdy as an auto-didact, in comparison to Yeats, Carman, MacLeish, Birney, Layton, Ramon Guthrie’s Maximum Security Ward: 1964-1970, Lawrence, Acorn, and Rilke.

Linda Rogers, alludes to Reaching for the Beaufort Sea: An Autobiography, (1993), the title of which was taken from a song by Stan Rogers, a favourite composer of Purdy “who favoured men’s voices in poetry and music”. (p. 132) In “What A Life”, she reveals Purdy as a boy who was “[c]oddled and dressed as Little Lord Fauntleroy for photographs” (p. 131); a “nerd” a “geek”; and includes her evocative poem, “Grief Sits Down”.

Susan Musgrave wrote “32 Uses for Al Purdy’s Ashes”, and, in “Remembering Al Purdy”, reveals she met him in 1972; then he became her neighbour, in 1988; and was diagnosed with a tumour on his lung, in 1999.  She recounts that “Wherever I have travelled, Al Purdy has been there first and written poems about it.” (p. 143)

The collection concludes with “The Declining Days Of Al Purdy,” by Catherine Porter, who confides that he was politically incorrect, in the 1990s.  Before he died on April 24, 2000, she had interviewed him and read his letters.   Of his death, “Like his Icarus though, I know he looked it straight in the eyes without blinking.” (p. 163)

Anne Burke

Marie Anne McLean: Stories from the Prairies

Review of Marie Anne McLean: Stories from the Prairies, From the Back Forty to Main Street to D-Day, Storytellers of Canada, StorySave Voices of Canada’s Storytellers, 2009

McLean is an Edmonton author who came from Saskatchewan.  This is a collection of Celtic folklore, original prairie stories, with humour, nostalgia, and surprise.  These stories record the voices of elders from Canadian storytelling, to create a Living Legacy, with website and CDs replacing print.  Check out Ranaghan Foundation through T.A.L.E.S. (The Alberta League Encouraging Storytelling) an association which supports the art of oral storytelling and its story listeners.

This three-CD audio recording was officially released at the 2009 annual conference of the SC-CC Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada which was held in Victoria, B.C., on July 8-12, 2009.  According to their website, McLean has been storytelling with TALES since 1986.  She collected stories from Veterans of the D-Day landing in World War II and of the depression experiences of her grandparents in Scotland and on the Canadian Prairies.  She tells original stories of people in towns such as Thumbprint and Weed Creek, in rural Saskatchewan.  She loves to tell of these little places that have helped to form our individual and national characters.  She also has a special fondness for Celtic stories.  (http://www.storysave.ca/Pages/Marie__Anne/Marie_Anne_Bio.html.)

On disc 1 Thumbprint Stories, we find: 1)”The Thumbprint Fountain; 2 “Mr. Lim”; 3 “Blind Flat Justice”; and  4) “Christmas Eve in Thumbprint.

According to SC-CC Web Site, the Thumbprint stories began when her brother was a young constable in the R.C.M.P.  He was posted in a town where they actually did install a fountain.  Prime Minister Brian Mulroney came to open it and the fountain overflowed.  “They came for their 10 p.m. coffee break.  They made me laugh so hard.”  Then, she
realized that she loved the little towns and their people.

On disc 2 War Stories, we find: 1) “Corporal Jack McLean’s Story”; 2) “Lieutenant Don James’ Story”; 3) “P.0.W. Albert Cooke’s Story; 4) “The Woman’s War”; 5) “Colonel Locky Fulton’s Story”; and 6) “Ice Cream.”

According to the SC-CC Web Site, on the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, in 1995, she accompanied veterans on a pilgrimage to scenes of the battles of the Royal Winnipeg Rifle Regiment.  The satires are based on recollections of some veterans who shared their experiences with the author.  She wanted to pass them on.  “They have given me an honour that is also a duty...They are the stories of what’s it’s like to be young and afraid and brave and sad in a dangerous time.”

On disc 3, Family Stories, we find: 1) “Stories of My Grandpa Lem”; 2) “The Concert”; 3) “The Fortune Teller”; 4) “The Perfume of Pears”; and  5) “My Brother’s Christmas Story.”

The germ of the Family Stories was that each story grew out of something experienced by a member of her family.  She grew up without television, until she was ten.  She lived in the same town of her paternal grandparents and she listened to their stories of the farm.  Her mother was a war bridge and far from her own family.  McLean attests: “It would be hard not to tell stories, if you come from my family.”

Anne Burke

Many Foundations by Mary Oakwell

Review of Many Foundations: Historic Churches of Alberta, by Mary Oakwell (Calgary, Alberta: Brindle and Glass, 2006.

According to the “Introduction”, this compact historical resource was not intended as a guidebook, with its black-and-white photographs, but attention is paid to materials used in construction, such as wood, clay, bricks, sandstone, as well as architectural and artistic details, such as stained-glass.

The editorial focus is on extant churches, from the 1890s and early 1900s, some as late as 1932.  This includes parsonages, manses, or vicarages; multiple sources associated with European missionaries, Ladies Aid groups; religious, agricultural and civic communities; the Hudson Bay Company fur trade, coal mining, and transportation (road, steamboat, railway routes).  Some institutions surveyed are monasteries, schools, hospitals, graveyards, and settler land development.  The significance of many individuals who played their roles are recorded here: Jerry Potts, Father Lacombe, Bishop Grouard, Reverend Garrioch, the Brindle family; William Pearce, Brother Klaas Ens, Reverend Michener,  and George McDougall; William Blakey, Reverend Robert Rundle, Reverend Charles Gordon (known as Ralph Connor); Pat Wesley, and “Buster” Roy Dixon, to name a few. The primary sources are: The United Church of Canada, Lutherans, the Grey Nuns, Vatican II, Presbyterians; Mennonite Brethren, and the Mormon Temple.  Of social-historic interest are: Japanese internment, the Great War; the flu epidemic of 1918-19; post-World War I/League of Nations, the Great Depression (Russian thistle invasion), and the 1960s.  The Church of Later Day Saints merits special mention, because it is well-known for its genealogical records.  Not withstanding the Oakwell, the author of Tea Time in Alberta, points out the feminization of names for church bells, as well as Dr. Margaret Strang, Bessie Rehwinkel, and Edith Cavell. The backdrop changes from Ukrainian churches to the Great Schisms and litigation. This competent study ends with “How It All Began”, the restoration of St. Paul the Apostle Church, in Fort Chipewyan, with funds from The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.  She hopes for a possible other volume, supplementing the present Listing of forty Churches.

An index would have been a valuable but not essential tool.  This text is useful (and I highly recommend it) for schools, churches, would-be historians, and the average reader.

Anne Burke

Rabbis & Their Community by Ira Robinson

Review of Rabbis & Their Community, Studies in the Eastern European Orthodox Rabbinate in Montreal, 1896-1930, by Ira Robinson (University of Calgary Press, 2007), 173 pps. paper $34.95 Indexed.

The germ of this book was not only a series of lectures at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal but preliminary research for a comprehensive biography of Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg (1859-1935), including his predecessor Rabbi Simon Glazer and his rival, Rabbi Hirsh Cohen. Robinson also alludes to Getsel Laxer (1878-1942) and Hyman Meyer Crestohl (1865-1928) “to illustrate the tensions, resentments, and conflicts.” Hirsh Wolofsky (1878-1949) was publisher of the Keneder Odler, Montreal’s Yiddish-language newspaper. These learned men left a legacy of writings, whether published or unpublished. The singular “community” signifies that they shared the same milieu, represented by the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, founded in 1922.  “The Kehilla movement was a wonderful dream.” However, politics interferes with religion.  The “Kosher Meat Question” became “The Kosher Meat Wars of the 1920s.”  “The war was not just a propaganda war…It was also a physical conflict.”

The author, who previously published in Canadian Ethnic Studies, Canadian Jewish Studies, and Jewish Political Studies, surveys previous scholarship in this area and finds it wanting, for a variety of reasons.  He draws on Census information, newspaper articles, correspondence, legal and synagogue records, in dealing with economic exigencies, resistance to assimilation, and other controversies of the day, such as use of the kabbala, in reconciling the Torah and science.  He concludes with the implications of the findings of this book for the subsequent history of North American Orthodox Judaism and its importance.

With a “Preface”, “Afterword”, Glossary, and Notes, this is an accessible account, suitable for social and ethnic history studies, as well as required reading for scholars of A.M. Klein and Irving Layton, in Jewish Canadian Literature.

Anne Burke

Two O’Clock Creek, Poems New and Selected

Review of Two O’Clock Creek, Poems New and Selected by Bruce Hunter (Fernie, B.C.: Oolichan Books, 2010) 204 pp. paper $18.95

Accidental Animals, by Michael Trussler

When I interviewed Bruce Hunter for The Prairie Journal (Number 32) 1999, his Country Music Country had just been published and he was immersed in writing his novel.

It’s about a little boy and he is obsessed with the sea, the antediluvian sea, and the one that’s eight hundred miles from here. And part of that is, because, if you are deaf, you live…not unlike the sea and so it’s part of his worldview, his…but that’s interesting…I pity anybody who understands my fiction…my first book of poetry, it’s all there. Everything that I’m into (“Lunch at the Lido Cafe: An Interview with Bruce Hunter”, p. 40).

The New and Selected Poems are arranged into sections, twenty poems from “Benchmark”; twenty-nine poems from “The Thorn Garden”; seven poems from “Seasons of the City”; fifteen poems from “Letters Home”; twelve poems from “Coming Home From Home.”

Hunter is the author of a novel, In The Bear’s House 2009; Coming Home From Home, poetry (2000); Country Music Country, stories (1996); The Beekeeper’s Daughter, poetry (1986); Benchmark, poetry, (1982); and Selected Canadian Rifles, poetry, 1981.

I reviewed Benchmark (Thistledown Press) in The Prairie Journal Number 3 (Fall-Winter 1984-85). That book “is a starting point. A prairie poet is an explorer, one who determines size, shapes, ownership and boundaries. (p. 36) As Hunter once wrote in “A Letter Halfway”, i say, where else/can the prairie boy go/but from one sea/to another deeper blue.” (p. 37)

Hunter has worked in blue-collar jobs for nearly fifteen years, as a labourer, Zamboni driver, and gardener, so that a critic is tempted to read his creative work as work poems or poems about these workplace(s), including white-collar teacher and author.  However, that would be a limited approach to the multi-level imagery and symbolic framework he employs.

The mystical wind celebrated by W.O. Mitchell appears in “But The Wind”.  Prairie rattlesnakes are part of the iconography, in this instance, a Pincher Creek horse in the chuck wagon races of the Calgary Stampede. A city boy appears in Paradise Valley, where he stumbles and must be rescued. He exposes the socioeconomic factors of crime (“Towards A Definition Of Pornography”). The word is framed by “brows bent in question marks”. (“Idiot Leaves”, p. 42) T.S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men” is reworked in “rage”; the human body is a shift shaper: “our potbellies glowing hubcaps/on the wheels of the body.” (p. 46)

His experience with manual labour transforms the actions of journeymen into the divine (“Skyhooks’). Similarly, as a gardener for gravestones, he feels like the first or primal gardener (“Song For The Quarrymen”). The setting of Andrew Marvell’s postlapsarian poem “The Garden” contains the mythical scythe of time for gravediggers (“The Mower”) and all is past (“The Thorn Garden”). The Keatsian “Ode on a Grecian Urn” becomes transposed as “Hawk On A Shrouded Urn”; the metaphysical maggot or worm (“The Worm”). The poet recounts the eulogy for “The Funeral” and his sympathy for “The Young Widow”. 

In “Selected Canadian Rifles”, Hunter recalls Nanaimo 1858 and 1913; Winnipeg 1919; Regina 1935, Pearl Harbour 1941; Montreal 1970, and Ipperwash 1995. As landscaper he recounts “The Day We Tore Up Stanley’s Lawn” and the Keegstra trial, “What happened here/happens in every small town. / Some born, some died, most/moved away.” (“Mediation On The Improbable History Of A Small Town”, p. 105)

In the second section “Seasons Of The City”, the poet moves from the small town landscape to an urban setting, where tattoo parlours and bikers abide (“My Street”, p. 111); where both the malnourished and the fiscal conservatives live. (“Seasons Of The City”, p. 113)  There is work in the city cemetery, where a gardener befriends urban wildlife such as birds.

In the third section “Letters Home”, he aches for the country, while in Montreal, the Kensington Market; in the Mars diner, on Tyndell Avenue, his romances in Italian, or the Mediterranean,

In “Coming Home From Home”, the final section, Cree song, Crow speech, Pinto Lake, tinnitus or deafness, (“Sources”), small defiant women (“The Scottish Grandmothers”) comes full circle from the opening “Strong Women”.

In The title poem “Two O’Clock Creek” a long poem, the poet ponders the irony of a supposed creek without any water anywhere. His twelve-year-old persona is of “a prairie boy baffled by the magic of water” (p. 187); he replaces the school maps in his head with the reality of climbing, glaciers as the source, and the Kootenay Plains. This poem, which inspired Hunter’s novel In the Bear’s House, winner of the 2009 Canadian Rockies Award at the Banff Mountain Festival, has been called a “seed” poem.

Robert Kroetsch wrote Seed Catalogue, in which he asked, “How do you grow a poet?”

This was the revolutionary question that Kroetsch asked…That question turned Western Canadian poetry on its head. It dug so deep into the prairie subconscious, into the archetypes of the region’s agrarian persona and pioneer mythology that opened up the eyes of a generation of writers who had yet to see the earth beneath their feed.

As Kroetsch points out

I had written The Ledger (1975) and was in the Glenbow Museum researching my novel Badlands, when I came across a 1917 MacKenzie seed catalogue…I realized that this was our shared text, so I wrote the poem. Robert Lecker termed it a new poetic form. It inaugurated a fascination in the West with the long poem and the potential of ordinary prose and everyday speech as legitimate tools of poetic text.  He helped to nurture a whole generation of aspiring  Saskatchewan writers, both novelists and poets, some of whom went on to national reputations.

(By George Melnyk, “Welcome Home, Bob: A Profile of Robert Kroetsch”, WestWord Magazine of the Writers Guild of Alberta, volume 31, Number 1, January/February., 2011, p. 7)

Hunter is the author of three books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and a novel In The Bear’s House. He studied with W.O. Mitchell at the Banff School of Fine Arts and attended York University. He taught English and Liberal Studies at Seneca College and Creative Writing at the Banff Centre and York University. He was the Writers Guild of Alberta’s Writer in Residence and the Richmond Hill Public Library.

In a poem dedicated to fellow poet Andrew Wreggett, he laments the lack of a magnetic field, no True North of the Heart. (“December Arson In Cabbagetown”, p. 115). He extols “What My Students Teach Me”, because a teacher must learn from the stories.

In “Death Of The Black Cat”, a long poem, an animal gendered as masculine expires from a heart murmur (like the poet who was only misdiagnosed with a heart condition). The couple grieves because they are childless.

Hunter ponders “How home is a dubious name/for what the heart can’t have—“, in “Coming Home From Home”, about Riel and Macdonald, based on a letter from the poet’s great-great grandfather. (p. 184)

About mid-way in our interview, the topic of sea imagery on the prairies was raised.  Hunter responded,

[T]hat’s something that has preoccupied me always. I mean it comes from growing up where there wasn’t much water.

He continues,

Six miles below us, right now, the antediluvian sea, it’s an ancient seabed and that kind of primeval soup, petroleum soup, is Alberta’s prairie and I was always aware of that because…so that you were always aware prehistory.

 I’ve always been aware of it and certainly the grassland, which is as vast as any sea. And it’s interesting, because of the western image and, at the same time as my novel. (pp. 39-40)

According to Donna Coates and George Melnyk in their “Preface: “The Struggle For An Alberta Literature”, Wild Words: Essays On Alberta Literature (Edmonton: University of Athabasca Press, 2010),

Because the study of Alberta writing is not a regular feature of academe, though Alberta writers are studied in other contexts and under different rubrics, acceptance of the concept of Alberta literature as a valid field of study remains an uphill struggle. The weight of historical prejudice and conventional negativity toward provincial identity in literature is a significant barrier. So the concept of Alberta literature remains contested by other boundary concepts and becomes a work in progress. (pp. ix-x).

The same statement was made about Canadian Literature in the early 1970s, because British and American Literature predominated. Yet, inevitability was implicit then and is a factor now, in all that we write and publish: Freedom to Achieve and Spirit to Create.

Anne Burke

The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined Region

Review of The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined Region, by Alvin Finkel, Sarah Carter, and Peter Fortna (Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2010) 435 pp. paper $29.95 Indexed, Bibliography, black-and-white photographs throughout.

The West and Beyond: New Perspectives on an Imagined Region, by Alvin Finkel, Sarah Carter, and Peter Fortna

In the Introduction the editors outline the history of Western Canadian Studies Conferences at the University of Calgary, beginning with 1977 to 1990, from which fourteen volumes of papers were produced.

Sarah Carter edited The Importance of Being Monogamous: Marriage and National Building in Western Canada to 1915; One Step Over the Line: Toward a History of Women in Northern Wests was edited by Elizabeth Jameson and Sheila McManus. Carter, then a Master of Arts student at the University of Saskatchewan, first attended the 1977 ninth annual Western Canadian Studies conference held at the University of Calgary.  Women’s history first emerged in the 1976 volume of the eight conferences, with Sheilagh S. Jameson’s “Women in the Southern Alberta Ranch Community, 1881-1914.” Women presenters were relatively few, but they gained momentum. Patricia Roy of the University of Victoria appears to have led the way with her paper at the 1972 gathering on “The Oriental ‘Menace’ in British Columbia.” At the time of the 1984 conference, held at the University of Victoria, on “The Forgotten Majority: A Conference on Canadian Rural History”, papers were given by Eliane Leslau Silverman, Nancy M. Sheehan, and Cecilia Danysk. Susan Trofimenkoff was the only woman to edit a volume of conference papers. 

This is a title in six volumes of The West Unbound: Social and Cultural Studies Series based on papers presented at “The West and Beyond: Historians Past, Present, and Future”, a conference held at the University of Alberta, 19-21 June, 2008.

Part One, Frameworks for Western Canadian History, discusses critical history in western Canada1900-2000; vernacular currents in western Canadian historiography; and Cree Intellectual traditions in history.

Part Two, The Aboriginal West, examines photographic narratives of the Athabasca-Mackenzie River Basin; perceptions of insanity in B.C. Aboriginal populations; hauntings in Vancouver’s downtown eastside; identity and race politics in the Calgary Stampede.

In “Space, Temporality, History: Encountering Hauntings in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside”, Amber Dean has been researching the number of women who have been disappearing, listed by the RCMP and Vancouver Police Department Task Force as missing and last seen from that neighbourhood. The Native Women’s Association of Canada estimates that there are at least 520 murdered or unaccounted for Indigenous women across the country, clustered mainly in the Western Provinces. In April 1861, police were ordered to drive all Indians found in town after 6 o’clock p.m. across the bridge that separated settler-Victoria from the Lekwammen (Songhees) reserve. They required passes from white persons by whom they were employed. There was a binary of otherness.

 In “The Expectations of a Queen”, Susan L. Joudrey discusses the Pocahontas Perplex, the Indian Princess-squaw dichotomy, or Madonna-whore duality, and Princess Wapiti. Beauty contests and pageants began as early as 1921. During the 1954 Queen of the Stampede contest, an aboriginal woman, sponsored by the Calgary Elks Lodge, entered the competition and sparked a controversy. When the news was published in The Albertan, correspondents supported her dressing as First Nations or Indian Princess, rather than as a Cowgirl. Nevertheless, she fulfilled her duties as the winner.

Part Three, The Workers’ West, studies labour and class formation in Prairie Canada; Two Wests; Epidemics, public health, and working class-resistance in Winnipeg, 1906-19; and the Winnipeg Postal Strike of 1919. In “Disease as Embodied Praxis: Epidemics, Public Health, and Working-Class Resistance in Winnipeg, 1906-19, Esyllt W. Jones advocates for Ada Muir, who discussed health in her “Woman’s Column” in The Voice, in relation to labour politics and activism. Her column was ended in 1912, after a series of heated exchanges.

Part Four, Viewing the West from the Margins, analyzes “Our Negro Citizens; A queer-eye view of the Prairies; and Human Rights Law and Sexual Discrimination in B.C. By the 1970s, the province “boasted” the country’s first rape crisis centre; the first feminist newspaper; the first national conference of human rights ministers; the first Black woman elected to a provincial legislature; the only woman in the federal parliament in 1970; and one of the first women’s liberation groups in the country; and it was the first province to legislate against sex discrimination. Women from B.C. led the most visible protest against abortion laws in Canadian history, in 1969. They carried a caravan from Vancouver to Ottawa, containing a coffin to symbolize the deaths of women from backstreet abortions. The source is “I Believe in Human Rights”, by Clément (cited p. 316, note 15). The first Canadian study on sexual harassment appeared only in 1978. Doris Anderson provided a vivid discussion of the obstacles facing women, including senior executives, who wanted to have both children and to work, Anderson’s Rebel Daughter, a memoir, (cited p. 317, note 27.) 

In Part Five, we find Cultural Portrayals of the West, in W.L. Morton, Margaret Laurence and Manitoba; Banff photographic exchange; Eric Harvie and Robert Kroetsch’s Alibi; and the Conservation of Historic Places in Saskatchewan.

The influence of Morton on Laurence, by Robert Wardhaugh,in “W.L. Morton, Margaret Laurence, and the Writing of Manitoba”, reveals there are four dominant approaches to Prairie history: formal, functional, mythic, and postmodern. “Morton represented all four, it was his vision of mythic Prairie and Manitoba that influenced Laurence”, (cited p. 344, note 1, from R. Douglas Francis, in “Regionalism, W.L. Morton and the Writing of Western Canadian History, 1870-1885,”American Review of Canadian Studies, 31, No. 4 (Winter 2001): 569-88.

There is a list of biographical notes for the twenty Contributors

Anne Burke

Wild Words: Essays on Alberta Literature

Review of Wild Words: Essays on Alberta Literature, edited by Donna Coates and George Melnyk (Edmonton: University of Athabasca Press, 2010) 204 pp. paper

Wild Words: Essays on Alberta Literature, edited by Donna Coates and George Melnyk

The editors contribute a joint Preface “The Struggle for an Alberta Literature”, with an “Introduction: Wrestling Impossibilities: Wild Words in Alberta”, by novelist Aritha van Herk.

The ten discrete academic papers, with end-notes and list of works cited, are from the October 2005 University of Calgary “Wild Words” conference on the occasion of the province’s centenary. Despite a fifty-year span of regional anthologies of Alberta literature and letters, this represents a preliminary study. “Acceptance of the concept of Alberta literature as a valid field of study remains an uphill struggle.” (p. x.) This fact is underscored by van Herk, who self-effacingly describes her own Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (Toronto: Penguin Books, 2001), as “my idiosyncratic and unreliable history of Alberta.” (p. 2) She explores Robert Krotesch’s The Hornbooks of Rita K. (Edmonton: University of Alberta, 2001).

Part One Poetry includes essays on “The ‘Wild Body’ of Alberta Poetry”, by Douglas Barbour; “To Canada: Michael Gowda’s Unique Contribution to The Literary History of Alberta”, by Jars Balan; and “Pastoral Elegy, Memorial, Writing: Robert Kroetsch’s ‘Stone Hammer Poem’”, by Christian Riegel.

Part Two Drama includes essays on “No Cowpersons On This Range: The Cultural Complexity of Alberta Theatre”, by Anne Nothof and “Playing Alberta With Sharon Pollock”, by Sherrill Grace.

Part Three Fiction contains “‘Now Woman Is Natural’: The (Re)Production of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Suzette’s Mayr’s Moon Honey”, by Helen Hoy; “Wandering Home in Rudy Wiebe’s Sweeter Than All The World and Of This Earth”, by Malin Sigvardson; and “Richard Wagamese-An Ojibway in Alberta”, by Frances W. Kaye;

Part Four Non-Fiction has “From Grizzly Country to Grizzly Heart: The Grammar of Bear-Human Interactions In The Work of Andy Russell and Charlie Russell”, by Pamela Banting and “The Doomed Genre: Myrna Kostash and The Limits of Non-Fiction”, by Lisa Grekul.

The collection concludes with an “Afterword: Writing In Alberta-Up, Down, or Sideways?” by Fred Stenson. The author graduated from the University of Calgary, in 1972.  The Alberta Government sponsored the Search-for-an-Alberta-Novelist Competition. Social Credit had been defeated by Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives in 1971. Stenson outlines the milestones of our cultural history, concluding with this challenge, “Whether the tradition you choose is local, regional, national, continental,or global is up to you.” (p. 198)

Coates teaches Canadian and Australian literature in the Department of English at the University of Calgary.  With Sherrill Grace, she is coeditor of Canada and the Theatre of War: Eight Plays (2008). George Melnyk is Associate Professor, Canadian Studies and Film Studies, Faculty of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary. He is the author of The Literary History of Alberta in two volumes (1998-99) and coeditor of The Wild Rose Anthology of Alberta Prose (2003).

The collection contains list of biographical notes for the fourteen contributors

Anne Burke

Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium

Review of Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium, by Myrna Kostash (Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2010) 352 pp. paper $34.95. Map, bibliography, Indexed.

Prodigal Daughter, by Myrna Kostash

After her successful All of Baba’s Children, Kostash was asked to write a sequel.  Subsequently, she produced Long Way From Home: The Story of the Sixties Generation and Bloodlines: A Journey into Eastern Europe

In Part One “Demetrius among the Slavs,” Kostash recollects her nine-year-old self in an Edmonton grade-four class, in the mid-1950s.  She senses cultural shame about being a Ukrainian and declares that she is Greek, among the English.  By the age of fifteen she has become an atheist.  She later confirms her Greek origins.

In “Byzantium on the Prairies”, at St. Peter’s Abby, near Muenster, Saskatchewan, in the summer of 2000, she meditates on Demetrius of Thessalonica who was martyred in 304 for preaching Christianity.  His contemporary namesake has become a Roman Catholic priest.  In order to pursue her “Demetrius” project, she visits Crete, Athens, Thessalonica and Sparta; then Serbia, and learns about Bulgarian history, before circling back to Edmonton in “Return to Canada”.

In Part Two “Demetrius in Byzantium”, she exudes Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appele Valley, while struggling to know herself, in a private-made-public confession.  She uncovers another Demetrius of Sirmium. The Slaves overcame the Balkans in the sixteenth century, and Kostash explores Byzantine emperors, the Coptic alphabet and translation of early Christian texts, at the Archives, discovering artifacts, icons, and monasteries, in 1083. The slaughter of the Turks is situated in the context of political anthropology.  The Saint helps all those in need, “even atheists and Communists in their disbelief.” (p. 239). She records the Two Versions of “The Life and Death of St. Demetrius, a Young Man of Thessalonica.” 

The luxurious full-colour cover image is of an icon, St. Demetrius, Tempera on pinewood, from the Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg.

In the Epilogue, she returns to Edmonton, on November 2, 2002, the Saturday before the Feast of St. Demetrius.

And the tongue is a fire, St. James wrote.  It once sent me out into the world.  Now I look around and see it burn without a flicker in the red lamp hanging on its gold chain before the Royal Doors.  It burns in olive oil and it never goes out. (p. 276)

The elaborate and extensive “Bibliography and Recommended Reading” not only authenticates the author’s scholarship but contributes a major work, in and of itself.

Kostash works her extensive bibliography into the academic texts, (for example, she quotes a poem by Bernadette Wagner on Demeter); but her first-hand impressions overcome exposition and truly capture informal interviews with an assembly of relevant characters.  Throughout she engages the reader in this evolutionary and epic quest. 

Kostash reveals that the book took a decade to write and, among the many acknowledgements, she mentions her University of Alberta Residency which made possible some of her secondary research. 

Earlier versions of Prodigal Daughter have appeared in AWOL: Tales for Travel-Inspired Minds (Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2003); Listening with the Ear of the Heart: Writers at St. Peter’s (Muenster, SK: St. Peter’s Press, 2003); Desire: Women Write About Wanting (Berkeley, Ca.: Seal Press, 2007); and Locating the Pas t/ Discovering the Present: Perspectives on Religion, Culture, and Marginality (Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press, 2010).  There were CBC Radio’s Ideas programming of Pursuing Demetrius (2001) and Six Things You Need to Know About Byzantium (2007).

Anne Burke

Accidental Animals and Erratic

Review of Accidental Animals, by Michael Trussler (Regina, Saskatchewan: Hagios Press, 2007) 98 pp. paper $16.95 and Erratic, by Donna Kane (Regina, Saskatchewan: Hagios Press, 2007) 68 pp. paper $16.95.

Accidental Animals, by Michael Trussler

Trussler has published book reviews, literary criticism, poetry, and short fiction.  His book of short fiction, Encounters (Edmonton: NeWest Press, 2006).  He edits Wascana Review.

The opening poem, dedicated to his daughter, adopts the poem as mask, making up stories.

In the second section “Contortions”, the venues and participants are juggled: a pageant, his son, his Pentecostal grandmother; a bestiary, diary-like dated entries; an angel’s Passover and Central Park. The pessimist philosopher Immanuel Kant is in Iraq.

The title poem, (“Portrait with Arbitrary Scenes and Accidental Animals”) reflects on the past twenty years, with a defined method:

To invent as if to record s if to love as
if to splash. quick and formulaic graffiti across
the disregarded slums of the mind
                         (p. 22)

A she-crow makes her appearance (“Salva Nos”),
with Sigmund Freud (“At The Circus Today”).  
The acrobat is a woman and “Her body’s
knowledge/is tireless”.
          (“The Contortionist”, p. 27)

Accidental Animals, by Michael Trussler

In the third section, “Inheritances”, a long poem, in four parts, contemplates, “Symbol isn’t dead; it’s a parasite that grows/inside of things.” (p. 30)

At the beginning of time, Adam and Eve, appear with “an orgy of angels” (“Adam’s Three Discoveries”, p. 33).

The poet views his birth as the year of the Kennedy assassination (“To My Two Children, Who Don’t Remember The Twentieth Century”) and he looks to the painter Chagall.

In a poem dedicated to poet Don Coles, author of Forests of the Medieval, the poet was influenced by Edward Munch’s painting, “The Scream” (“Science Solves Munch’s Most Famous Painting”)

In section four “Loves”, four windows and the fifth dimension, his son, himself, and his father, “They, my dead, bend” (“Four Windows”, p. 51)

He accounts for time by the number of words, making “Many thousands of young/and older words ago” (“My First Love”, p. 52)

Relevant to the title of the collection, in “The Animals”, his daughter “lost” a word, such that:

animals are no longer animals, animals
have become what they should be

(P. 53)

Despite the specificity of a poem’s title, the poet becomes a baby again, and his son will do the same, in elastic-like time, when the word “cat” is introduced. (“This Afternoon”, p. 55)

He expresses nostalgia for where he used to live (“Upon Separating”).  The harsh prairie weather conditions are unlike Prague, although the poem was written to and about Franz Kafka, with mention of Karl Marx and Rilke and puns on the Black Panther, with a child’s toy (“A Day in the Morning”)

In “Her Side” the poet articulates the separation but adopts his partner’s viewpoint.  However, the diction of Pulling each day we spend together out of/my cunt” does not sound believably. (p. 63). Her faithless partner has forgotten his promise, while she has accurate memories.  The imagined monsters are just as real , but we don’t need to make them up (Jean Luc Godard, In Praise of Love) in “just Like That”), p. 72)

There is an itinerary of shopping and of fellow shoppers, “The Grocery Store Is Willing To Sell”.  His method follows:

that a poem should amble between images, should
contain as many vowels…
…as a grocery store holds food
and other things…

                                    (p. 65)

and of devouring experience (“Aubade”).

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and also generates creativity (“Adumbration”). An aphorism speaks to the dictionary, failure shadowed, “always dogging along.” (p. 71) He relies on and revels in indeterminate time (“A Five-Year Old With Scissors”).

The poet articulates his views about graffiti art as vandalism (“Just Like That”), in the same breath as Ruskin, Picasso,

                        and then God caught me
looking, not
at him
    but for you,
amy, for

Note that God is capitalized but not “him” or “amy”, diminutions

In section five “Conversations”, the poet shares more about his process.  In “Collecting”, he draws his imagery from popular culture, “Guns N' Roses” not the cheap copy of a painting by Michelangelo

The heightened experiences of the poet Rilke bear comparison with the ordinariness of domestic strife, “he [Rilke] sees that a woman has/bawled because of the way a man/has watched a television.” (“Interruptions”, p. 81)

In “The Mirrors”, a poem addressed to Arthur Schopenhauer, author of The World as Will and Representation, the poetponders the meaning of current events, the respective roles of art and nature, cave paintings, and the Minotaur returns (a debt to Eli Mandel).

“Inside The Dog Park”, (dedicated to Saul Bellow, The Dean’s December) a dog is named for Frida, the artist.  The poet praises a prairie boy’s poetics (of Kurulek-like keen eye and painterly insight).   His kenning is to bring Kurulek back from the dead.  This poem is nominally about a Regina dog park, albeit from Pompeii,


                        the prairie’s edge
where the sky is
the same blue/gray
as the numbers
tattooed in their ears.

                                                (p. 87)

The second book under review deals with the natural world, aurora borealis, desert and forest, wilderness, slough; whether a raven, a moose, because she is “a wild child”. (“Awakened”) The venues are replete with chickadees, squirrels, bees and moths; robins, mouse, crows, snake, chicks; grizzly, red-winged black bird, frog, cat.  In this eco poetry, with these “on-purpose” animals, the persona identifies with the prey rather than the predator. She is moth and appreciates metamorphosis (“Late Summer Hatch”);  or photosynthesis (“Induction”); and stereotypy (“which means the pathological pacing of caged/animals.” (“Once I Ate A Moose Turd”, p. 54).  Keen senses, such as intuition and weather forecasting from a savant are qualities evident in this eco-conscious lyric poetry, with two prose poems, written margin to margin. The book was edited by Don McKay.

The title poem engages the reader on several levels: a) deviating from the ordinary or standard, eccentric or strange, for example,

                        I wore my pajamas
inside-out.  This morning inside-out
and backwards.  Each time
when I noticed,
I was already used to it.

(“I Never Gave Up”, p. 33)

Parts I and II of “When You Came To Me Asking To Be Held” are in reverse chronological order.

Another meaning is b) transported, as if by a glacier, and the polar ice cap is melting due to global warming and human emotion.

Throughout, the poet’s vision is constant, although the settings are c) in-consistent, irregular, non-uniform, and d) wandering, having no fixed course, nomadic.

This theme is reinforced by “Solecism”, a minor blunder or an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence; deviating from the proper, normal, or accepted order, a breach of etiquette or decorum.

The collection begins with solstice (“Thin Ice”) an ode to a

            prairie crocus, rosy ever-lasting,
campion, calypso orchid, a wish
to see you, rock cress.

            (“Coming True”, p. 63)

rhetorically asks:

                        What happens on the prairies
when a cold moon rises
pink above the snow
is happening here—a pause
of unapologetic beauty, our own
goings on of no concern,
long-ago abandoned.

(“Leaving Vegas, The Sun Setting On The Mojave
Desert”, p. 38)

ends with a poem “Summer Solstice”

                        from a hill’s highest point, your head full of chlorophyll,
heart shucking winter like a clayload of guilt, like pollen
with its no-aim strategy, touching everything
to compensate loss.  You exceed yourself.

                                    (p. 61)

Kane’s first book, Somewhere, a Fire, was published by Hagios Press, in 2004.  She directs Writing on the Ridge, a non-profit organization to foster the arts in northern British Columbia.

Anne Burke

An Autoerotic History of Swings; The Blackbird Must Be; and Nobody Move

Review of An Autoerotic History of Swings, by Patricia Young (Sono Nis Press, 2010) 80 pp. paper $14.95; The Blackbird Must Be, by Dorothy Field (Sono Nis Press, 2010) 100 p. paper $14.95; Nobody Move, by Susan Stenson (Sono Nis, 2010) 80 pp. $14.95.

Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War, by Shawna M. Quinn

Sono Nis Press, based in Winlaw, British Columbia, is celebrating forty-two years of publishing in Canada.

In approaching this triad of poetry titles, I want to borrow a trope from one of Susan Stenson’s poems, “Reader Response Theory”, since the poem is emblematic of experience through multiple lenses over time.  A literary text possesses no fixed and final meaning or value.  Rather, a continuing dialogue or dialectic exists between a text and successive readers.  An ever-necessary retelling is required, since the narrative is cumulatively interpreted and assessed, with successive generations.  See: also Towards an Aesthetic of Reception (1982) and The Aesthetic Experience and Literary Hermeneutics (1982) by Jauss; Reception Theory: A Critical Introduction (1984). Cited in A Glossary of Literary Terms 7th Edition, by M. H. Abrams, (Orlando: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1981) pp. 262-3.  (Also see: concepts proposed by Hans-Georg Gadmer, under interpretation and hermeneutics, pp. 128-132).

The Blackbird Must Be, by Dorothy Field

What is primary is not the response of a single reader at a given time, but reflection on the altering responses, interpretive and evaluative, of the general reading public over the course of time.  According to Hans Robert Jauss in “Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory”, in New Literary History, volume 2, 1970-1, a text has no objective meaning, but it does contain a variety of objectively describable features.  A particular response will become a joint product of a reader’s own expectations, when challenged by the texts.  Therein develops an evolving historical tradition of critical interpretations and evaluations.   

Nobody Move, by Susan Stenson

Which brings me to “Mass bird deaths a mystery, but not a sign of ‘aflockalypse’”, by Alister Doyle, with files from Agence France-Presse, (Calgary Herald, January 7, 2022, A13)

[R]esponse to the bird deaths also illustrated differences between more religious-minded Americans, versed in biblical accounts of plagues of frogs or locusts, and    secular Swedes who place their trust in human authority.  [T]he reaction is, “oh no, Doomsday is coming.” In Sweden, they say, “Let’s call the veterinary          authorities.”

As I write, fireworks may have caused the deaths of more than 5,000 birds on New Year’s Eve.  More research is needed because science is reportedly struggling to explain surprises that nature can bring.  When birds are falling out of the sky, storms, hail or lightning can kill birds, while tornadoes or waterspouts can suck them up and drop them far away.  Human causes, such as fireworks, power lines, or a collision with a truck, may explain avian deaths.

Poetry and Canadian Poetry and, more recently, Canadian Poetry, are rapt/wrapped by nature.  The humanist/environmentalist viewpoint/vantage point appears throughout Christine Lowther’s recent My Nature (Leaf Press, 2010). Don McKay, a birding naturalist, exemplifies an ornithological orientation.  Birds have figured in prophecy, as in the nightingale, or Poe’s “The Raven”; foretelling a death in the house, incantatory.

The first book An Auto-Erotic History of Swings is by Patricia Young; and the other two, the blackbird must be, by Dorothy Field and Nobody Move, by Susan Stenson, are books which Young edited, in some form, for the press.

Young writes of “the mad chirping/in the underbrush” (p. 73) and “hollow balls the size of pigeons’ eggs” women insert into their vaginas (“Brass Eggs”, p. 57).  Although “Not a birdwatcher”, (“The Littlest Orgasm”), p. 48, she must nevertheless note: “The Sexual Significance of Birds”: “The bird, for instance, that changes into a woman while retaining some elements of the bird”.

Her red feet and plump chest
more alluring
than the smell of fermenting mash.
You, a predator?
You, who long to roll in her grasses?
You chase after your game bird, grabbing at tail

feathers, but she lifts off the ground...

where she perches
in the heavenly vapours.  Strange
popping sounds, derisive laugher, your partridge
love drowning in a vat of bubbling corn mash.

(p. 34)

The title poem deals with Samoan culture (Margaret Meade) and the practice of masturbation by hanging.  The aim is to be historically and geographically varied about taboos: the dildo, masturbation, prostitution and concubines; puberty, menstruation, and marriage; (Freudian) childhood sexuality.

 The term “auto-erotic” suggests self-propelling sexual gratification or arising without known external stimulation.  The term “swing” operates on multiple levels: a) the gamut of emotions the poet feels and conveys to the reader (to intrigue, amuse, amaze, outrage, move, or inspire); b) to shift and fluctuate, for example among sexual partners; and c) to move rhythmically in place (the acts of love).

Young acknowledges that the book owes a debt to Havelock Ellis and his six-volume, thirty-one-year project, Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1887-1928). She has “lifted quotations” that engendered a variety of emotions and the quotations may be woven into the poems.  A quotation “triggered” the poem or she sought a quotation after composing a poem. Some of the first section “The Art of Love” was short-listed in the 2010 CBC literary competition.

The second section about Karita “again” is a subtitle used to suggest redundancy (from her viewpoint and that of her sister) on the occasions of a marriage party and  a sex addict at a motel;  the history of rape (not herstory).   Listing-making is not only a practice, 2008 for grocery shopping (“Sex: Reasons for Having It”).  There is the cautionary tale of Marital Preparation, (in “Questions to Ask Before Marriage: Tofino, B.C.”)

Are there things you’re not prepared to give up—
arbutus trunks, quails thrashing through
salal outside your kitchen door?

                                    (p. 73)

The wish of “I wanted to experience God, sidle up to the Divine” (“Sex: Reasons for Having It”, p. 78) becomes the gateway to the third section and final long poem, “On Sex and Wooden Boats: God’s Last Words”, exploring the biblical Creation Myth.

Young has nine collections of poetry and one of short fiction.  She has won numerous awards, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Contest, the Dorothy Livesay Award, the Bliss Carmen Award, and the National Magazine Award, among them. Two of her poetry books were short-listed for the Governor General’s Award.

Dorothy Field, who has a new collection of poems, is a writer and visual artist.  She reveals, “When I’m writing I feel like I’m not getting to my visual art.  When I’m more engaged in visual art, I feel I’m not getting to my writing.” (“poet Q & A”).  She has two previous poetry books, Wearing My People like a Shawl (Sono Nis Press, 2008) and Leaving the Narrow Place (Oolichan Books, 2004).  She is the author of a children’s book and co-author of Between Gardens, a book of garden letters (Polestar, 1999).  The fact that she lived on a small farm on rural Vancouver Island for thirty years and then moved to Victoria is relevant to an understanding of her odyssey which she charts in this collection. .The Cover art/image is also by Field

She unflinchingly inspects incest (“Denial”) and infidelity (“No Fit Witness”).  The journaling is logged on The Day of the Dead, marking time.  She records domestic details of making and unmaking the marital bed.  In parallel poems, of he said, and she said, the poet consciously lists “What he wants from her” and “What she wants from him”.

What matters more than this is what it means to be a woman (“Copper Woman” was inspired by Anne Cameron’s “Daughters Of Copper Woman”).  The word “yakshi” is for a fertile voluptuous female being. As for monogamy, the poet praises the mated pairing of Mr. and Mrs. Bird, while another pair is god-like (“Orpheus and Eurydice”).  Field is fond of the metaphysical conceit á la John Donne, in “Used”).  She discovers and uncovers the ending of a marriage through divorce (“And Then It’s Over”).  The sense of
abandonment is part of the grieving process.  That and

Not knowing the women
who dropped me
had taken up
with you.

                        (“Master”, p. 28)

Further, the meaning of land (“Real Estate”) pertains to the sale of the farm, a painful separation of assets, which is nothing in comparison with her refusal to cede control.

The healing process seems to begin with “This morning the Garry Oak (p. 40)

The city thinks this oak is mine.
It stands on land beside my house
but an oak cannot be bought or sold.
If I slip, claim ownership,
forgive me my trespass.

(“Sangha of Oaks”, p. 47)

This is decidedly preferable to a desolate wasteland of emotion, “coyote-rimmed (“Night Calls”), and frigid relations (“Marriage in the Ice Age”).

The motif of birds (their sexual significance and transformation into women, by Young),
is connected with Field’s book epitaph, from Wallace Stevens, “The river is moving. /The blackbird must be flying”.

The subject of the opening poem is a red-winged blackbird (“When I Was Just Flesh”).  Throughout, we find the Raven, a dark cloud of crows, a city hawk, as omens, totemic emblems.  A hummingbird “beating herself against the skylight” is one with whom she identifies, as trapped, and whom she releases “at least once every summer” (“Closing and Opening” p. 33).  There is the narrative of Tiresias of Thebes, who was turned by the goddess Hera into a woman; he came to understand birdsong. 

Section Two is dedicated to an oak tree on her property which had to be removed.  In turn, she mourns its loss, in mythological symbolism, drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain contexts; Tibetan and Sanskrit texts; the Mother Goddess in Nepal and Sedna a goddess of the Inuit.

Her art is telling stories, a survivor of divorce (but just barely).

Stenson’s new collection is witty, soulful, and inventive.  She engages the reader’s reception of the text; offering her own “take” on the altering responses, interpretive and evaluative, of the general reading public over time. Accordingly, she opines on Irving Layton’s solipsism, “Lovers and Lesser Men”, and on “Husbands”, “It isn’t easy remembering your husband’s name.” (p. 22).  In addition to a cataloguing of possibles, she writes these precious lines: “men in poems are much harder to see”, in “Reader Response Theory”, (p. 52) and “Some girls whistle with no fingers.  I need four”, in “All Risk Factors Taken into Account”, (p. 69.).  She adds, “My husband started writing poetry/when his car ran out of gas on the valley road, in “Aubade for the Valley”, (p. 73)

Patriarchy hinges on the conditional, “But if he proposes” and/ she accepts”, returning to “But, he does not propose,” (“Prayer”, p. 86)

The ever-present and prescient birds, their significance is evident in the final section entitled “Everyday Fools And Birds”, for example, a species, so aptly named, in “Devotion”,

a hummingbird showers in the spray
as if the bird made the decision to visit now…

one bird, this small song:
how he hovers.

                                    (p. 81)

Post-war, men gone to war and women waiting, in “The Diviner”,

My grandmother was always tired.
Twelve kids.  A depression. Two wars.”

(p. 61) 

Some compositions and collages are actually prose poems, scanning margin-to-margin, but all replete with the gift of story-telling, whether dealing with infidelity, loss, or leaving/leave-taking in human relationships.  Like Don McKay, who provided a quotation: “And so the watcher throws himself into l’envers”, Stenson opts for
onomatopoeia, and declares that “a bird’s all wings” (“Certainty”, p. 88).

Stenson has won numerous awards, including the Rona Murray Prize for Literature, Monday Magazine’s People’s Choice Award for Best Book of Poetry, and the Hawthorne Poetry Award.  She also won the League of Canadian Poets National Poetry contest and she co-publishes The Claremont Review.  Two of her previous book publications are: Could Love a Man (Sono Nis, 2001) and My Mother Agrees with the Dead (Wolsak and Wynn, 2007).  She also contributed to Threshold: Six Women, Six Poets (Sono Nis, 1998).

Anne Burke

Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War

Review of Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War, by Shawna M. Quinn (Goose Lane Editions and The New Brunswick Military Project, Volume 15, 2010) 176 pp. paper $16.95 Bibliography. Indexed, black-and-white photographs.

Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War, by Shawna M. Quinn

At the outset, I confess to a personal interest in this subject matter because my mother was a registered nurse who was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Her education was High School and courses taught by physicians in Anatomy, Chemistry, and Nutrition, at the Montreal General Hospital.

She worked at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Montreal. Stateside, the position came with room and board, not much more than about $2.60 a day, with a half-a-day off per week. Her professional experience ended just prior to the Second World War.  (Nevertheless, she suffered from scarlet fever and was at risk from other illnesses due to nursing.) However, she related stories of the First World War.  In particular, there was a young man who returned from the Front and whose life was never the same, because he had been mustard-gassed in the trenches.

Ironically, the Great War was to have been The War to End All Wars.  This bears repeating to a generation whose knowledge is somewhat limited to Afghanistan and Iraq; Cyprus and Turkey; Israel and Palestine; as well as to those who are old enough to recall the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The subtitle and moniker “Sister” was an anachronism, applied to military nurses, from the time when the religious orders did full-time nursing.  For my part, I role-played Superman, with my mother’s scarlet-lined cape, when I wasn’t borrowing her white stockings and nursing cap, from a trunk.  When not on duty, she wore a grey wool suit, which was my idea of a professional woman, and a career she had abandoned to give birth to me in 1951.  She was forty-years-old, married for two years, and with other, younger women, who were house-bound in the suburbs.

Agnes Warner (1872-1926) graduated from McGill College in Montreal and the Presbyterian Hospital, in New York, before traveling to the Swiss border in 1914.  She received the Croix de Guerre medal.   This compact monograph contains the collected letters (August 2, 1914-January 1, 1917) of a nursing sister which were first published as My Beloved Poilus (St. John, NB: Barnes & Co., 1917).  The original Preface notes that these personal missives, to friends and family members, were not written for publication.  Nurse Florence Nightingale from the Crimean War was the model held up to women who were motivated to join the Red Cross and serve in France.  The present editor augments the correspondence, with newspaper accounts, documents, maps, and other period memorabilia

Warner writes of the dreary days and long nights, the seemingly inescapable cold. Her first-hand narratives of injuries and sudden death are only relieved by the descriptions of bravery.  Her own compassion and stoicism are evident, when she speaks of one soldier’s experience:

 A boy of twenty went off today...He was almost blown to pieces, poor boy… [T]hey thought he would not live through the night, he was so terribly wounded.  His right arm was gone, he had a bullet in his liver—it is still there— and multiple wounds of head and body.  But he made a wonderful recovery….

                                                                        (p. 96)

The context of women’s rights and responsibilities, their roles as nurses, aids, and clerks, as well as temporarily replacing men in factory and farm occupations, are further explored by Angela K. Smith, in The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism and the First World War (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2000).

Some other resources for this period are: Lights Out! A Canadian Nursing Sister’s Tale, by Katherine Wilson-Simmie, (Belleville, Ontario: Mika, 1981); Our Bit: Memories of War Service by a Canadian Nursing Sister by Mabel Clint (1934); Humour in Tragedy: Hospital Life Behind 3 Fronts by a Canadian Nursing Sister, by Constance Bruce (London: Skeffington, 1918); Nobody Ever Wins a War: The War Diaries of Ella Mae Bongard, R.N., edited by her son Eric Scott (Ottawa: Janeric Enterprises, 1998); The War Diary of Clare Gass, 1915-1918, edited by Susan Mann, her biographer (Montreal and Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2000).

When my mother put pen-to-paper it was a piece of short fiction, to extol the wonder drug Penicillin, which saved the lives of countless patients and, in this instance, her dentist brother, along with long-lost letters to friends and family.  Thus, has been the fate of diaries and other personal accounts, because they were largely unpublished, and not considered official or of sufficient worth to preserve.

I still have her textbooks in Anatomy and Nutrition.  We used to laugh because the sexual organs have been omitted.  (It was not considered proper for women to learn about them). Her father fully funded his sons to graduate from university but advised his only daughter to concentrate on flower-arranging and playing piano.  After a course in business and a brief stint as a secretary, she enrolled in the new nursing program.  Students were bright and motivated, but lacked funds, so that after they graduated, most had on the job training: carrying bed pans, assisting doctors in the operating room, and tending to patients, with medications, back rubs, etc. She did private duty work and then cared for her father who died of liver cancer.

Shawna M. Quinn has a Bachelors in Biology-Psychology and a Masters in Arts in History from the University of New Brunswick.  She contributed to a virtual exhibit “Progress and Permanence: Women and the New Brunswick Museum, 1880-1980.”

Anne Burke

the art of breathing underwater

Review of the art of breathing underwater, by Cathy Ford (Salt Spring Island, B.C.: Mother Tongue Publishing, 2010) 114 pp. paper $19.95.

the art of breathing underwater, by Cathy Ford

This splendid book, much anticipated, nevertheless made its way to me, magically, on Christmas Eve. I use that term advisedly because I have shared in at least some of her life experiences, on an annual basis.

This practice culminates, as she explains in “Soul Shaping/Coast Ghosting (on Clayoquot Sound)”, in Eco Poetry: Women Poets On The Environment 2009 (edited by Magie Dominic (The Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets, 2010, p. 23)

I would like to give to each of you, not a postcard poem or a long poem or a love poem or a poem for peace, which has been my secret tradition at these annual gatherings, but a blank postcard, worth a thousand words, or more, the back clean slate of which is for you to do with as you will….

There are glimpses as a roman à clef in long, sinuous, carefully crafted poems, of evolution and peaceful revolution, in which League and Caucus members abound, too numerous to mention here. Now you must read them for yourselves.

Ford was the President of the League of Canadian Poets and was one of the founding members of the Feminist Caucus of the LCP. She is also a member of the Writers Union of Canada, and PEN International. She worked as a community and arts activist committed to world peace and to improving the status of women, especially women artists in Canada and internationally. Her personal essays, poetic fictions, novel excerpts, prose and long poems have appeared in more than two-hundred magazines, journals, and anthologies. She worked as a creative writing teacher, editor, typesetter, and book designer.

This new full-length collection is augmented by photographs, “Crocus Ice” and “Water Tulip”, scans of work using natural forms, mostly flowers, to create new realities and relationships (www.photoscanography.com). Much as the poet manages language (whatever the colour) splintered, bifurcated, implicated, conspiratorial, anti-advertorial, accompanied by an introduction which is non-linear and semiotic, by Jane Munro, author of Point No Point (who alludes to meeting Cathy in Pat Lowther’s workshop the autumn of Lowther’s murder.) More of this later.

Ford has fourteen books of poetry and numerous chapbooks and folios published by blewointment press, Intermedia Press, Caitlin Press, Véhicule Press, Harbour Publishing and gynergy books. In addition, we “are all writing about angels”, from Angels & Sharks, or Looking for Robert, a chapbook from erosisarosepress press, 1993; The Pariah Dress, 1994; The Little Black Dress Series, 1995; Sexing The Angels, 1995; and Cunnilingus, 1997. She has also contributed, as editor, to nonfiction, Stats, Memos Memory, 1987 and Illegitimate Positions: Women and Language, 1987, with co-editor Susan McMaster.

The drowned poet is a motif in much Canadian poetry (witness: A.M. Klein’s “The Poet as Landscape”). Cathy credits Gwendolyn MacEwen’s “The Swimmer” and “Mermaid and Ikons” in The Shadowmaker (Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, 1969) as sources. There is the intergenerational “rivering” of menses “as if, walking, walking under water.” (p. 99)

This variation on theme is of particular interest, because, rather than dying, the poet opts to adapt to new environmental conditions by becoming amphibious; and in so doing, shoring up abilities she hardly knew she possessed: as mother, daughter; a child of the past and a parent; ending all wars to appreciate a troubled peace.

Throughout, we discover/uncover the breath pause, aspiration, respiration, as in: “It is sometimes hard to breathe, /to catch your breath” (p. 27) “I look down into the water of my life so far, just trying to breathe” (p. 32) Mid-breath absolution possible.

a newborn son, youngest longlost brother
you cannot mistake him
breathing underwater
you cannot tell him apart
(p. 68)


here the ocean does not lock frozen
dam busting the gates
lakehead, rivermouth opening
here you could swim year round
catch your breath, breathing caught underwater
(p. 76)

westcoast rain is omnipresent, omniscient, omnivorous. As she wrote, in “Soul Shaping/Coast Ghosting,”

nothing is quite as powerful as the west coast, the wet coast, the place where I know for sure my creative and spiritual landscape is irredeemably fused in the wildest predictable and unpredictable nature….(p. 35)

At first glance, the poems are positioned between nature and art, skin (our birthday suit) being the colour of language, while black is all the colours (and none). Women’s literature, like the reason for a women’s room at the Montreal Windsor railway station (my mother and I a child, she explains: “a place not bothered by men.”) Not that she or we dislike men in general, but we have, and are, special women friends; survivors (barely) of patriarchy, never victims for long, for empathy fuses a strength and resiliency born of necessity and re-birthed by compassion.

In “Soul Shaping/Coast Ghosting,” she has moved from unique personal poetry toward a more common fictional good, produced by and despite “health issues, marriages, divorces, near-deaths, death wishes, birth, births, being reborn, death a blessing if nothing else, love, grief, what we thought in our family we would never say….” (p. 24) because we have established elsewhere the extended and alternate cherished family, inspired by the act of being unconditionally accepted.

There is a binary of sorts, in the first eight poems, linking options by “and”, “or”, the penultimate “if”, and finally “is” the state of being, much like the beribboned postcard poems which Cathy has with, inordinate generosity of spirit, distributed at our League annual general meetings and Feminist Caucus/ Living Archives Committee meetings, somewhere (anywhere) across Canada.

In Section One “women and children first”, which, appears, at first, as an attempt to rearrange the deck chairs on the ill-fated Titanic, by suggesting a classless society based on the response of a survivor, from Titanic Disaster Hearings, The Official Transcripts, edited with an introduction by Tom Kuntz, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster, N.Y., 1998). There are also the allusions to novels: Faye Kellerman’s the quality of mercy and Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out and The Waves. The chairs are actually ourselves, as passengers or shore birds. There are flowers of a metaphoric garden, daffodils, narcissus, iris eyes. In the elegiac “A Small Poem for Peace” on the anniversary of Holly Jones’ death, she juxtaposes the bilingual refrain of a broken heart, with writing against death, her muse the white goddess, at “grave’s end.” (Robert Graves). (p. 16)

The composition of miscarriage and Montreal lilies was written while waiting for the metro (“Whatever the Colour”). There is the syncopative “smell of ripened oranges among the ashen, cracked stones” (to acknowledge suffering and to give ease, “The Blue Kosovo Angel”, p. 21) the grief of a woman for her deceased husband, he once was “a cool drink of water” (for her aunt and her cousin, “Beauty, or imagining the truth”, p. 23).

From “some, to one, to more than the sun, to none” a dedicated catalogue of the “Emilys” (“despite all the worries calling all the world, Emily, Emily, Emily despite death”, in “Soul Shaping/Coast Ghosting”) to “F”, “G”, and “Vs” (I) (“wallpaper, or forced perspective, once altered your name here”, April, May, June, 2010, p. 25). A “needle and thread, this coast drawing through” alludes to recycled paper, permanent print, an anatomy of a book, grass cloth, laser printed or tree free, to inform belles lettres (p. 70).

a woman as the singular deer, her heart pierced
the violence should be expunged but it seeps into

the hidden madness, two children dragged
after, the red mattress, the bloody hammer
all these should be removed
from poems
it is astonishing what survives after
what kills you
(p. 27)

Recent sociological studies pertaining to women’s studies and criminology are: Violence Against Women: Myths, Facts, Controversies, by Walter S. DeKeseredy (University of Toronto Press, 2011) and Fleeing the House of Horrors: Women Who Have Left Abusive Partners, by Aysan Sev’er (University of Toronto Press, 2002). In Canada, every six days, a woman dies from domestic violence. Between 1995 and 2004, domestic homicides accounted for one-third of the 4,502 solved murders in Canada. Of these, 47 percent were spousal homicides, and four out of five involved a current or former husband against his wife.

The muse and the poet are “like daughter, sister, sister in law, daughter in law, cousin, auntie, mother, grandma.” From “ii) if a tree falls” is a questionnaire, conditional on “if a tree falls” “if a lightning struck tree falls” “if a tree, candling, falls” and “if a shrieking widowmaker, tree, snag, falls” (p. 29) punning on a culturally modified tree falls; “if an oldgrowth tree falls”. The conjunction “but” invokes, “Listen, listen.” for Christine Lowther and the New Year.

Part iii) her 75th birthday year, is again for Pat Lowther, after “On Having Received An Open Invitation”, with thanks to journalist and poet Donna Sturmanis, for the seriousness of the proposition, a gift, “like all these women met” why must it be politically incorrect, inviting other women, into our lives; “of course, never copied out or written down, our worst fears, and not quite, going on/not at all, the same.” (p. 35)

In Section Two, “Stillwater, Spillgate”, about landscape kimonos, at a museum show, entitled “Homage to Nature: Landscape Kimonas by Master Itchiku Kubota,” she has taken the names and woven them into the forty-five parts of this long poem, as a celebration of both nature and art, and the denigration of nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The lessons to be imparted include, but are not limited to, you are not what you see, and vision is limited; about aboriginal women with children, the truth and untruth in reporting. There are metaphysics, tideswept, lake enveloped into river, river into ocean, the voyage out, fish choked.

Section three “lifelines, or the little black dress poems” depicts writing about angels, in an idyll about a knife man, a surgeon: for vagina, cervix, uterus, penis, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. There are the peregrinations of angels, morphing into birds of prey, transformations which are not idle work. This is an iconography of the mockingbird dress, and the song, the dress I was wearing when I dreamt of your next best face red shoes, a dance of death, the pariah dress, stunned into silence.

From 1984 to 1986 Cathy Ford was a member of a national task force of Women and Words, working to create a draft constitution for a Canadian association of Women and Words. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Literary Storefront from 1980 to 1982. For more information about this organization, you can consult www.abcbookworld.com/viewessay, “The Literary Storefront: A Brief History“, by Mona Fertig, publisher at www.mothertonguepublishing.com It was the birthplace of The Federation of B.C. Writers. Cathy has a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with Honours. She is married with one son.

Anne Burke

"Collecting Stamps Would Have Been More Fun”: Canadian Publishing and the Correspondence of Sinclair Ross

Review of “Collecting Stamps Would Have Been More Fun”: Canadian Publishing and the Correspondence of Sinclair Ross, 1933-1986, selected and with an introduction by Jordan Stouck, Annotations by David Stouck (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2010) paper 344 pps. $34.95 Indexed.

Collecting Stamps Would Have Been More FunThis collection of extant letters, from Atwood to Wiseman and many others, are from friends, fellow writers, and editor-publishers, and their replies from Sinclair Ross (1908-1996).  The correspondence is arranged according to the five major periods of his writing life: the early short stories and As For Me and My House; the mid-career short stories and The Well; Whir of Gold; Sawbones Memorial; and his final period.

Much can be gleamed from these writings, not only biographical facts but, perhaps more importantly, about his creative process.  In a postscript, Ross muses,  “As I read this over, it occurs to me that over the past 32 years I have very seldom felt impelled to speak up on behalf of Mrs. B[entley].  It’s usually ‘That terrible Philip—what a life for the poor woman,’ and my reply, even though not spoken, is ‘Think of the poor man with her always waiting outside the study door, fixed on him.’ In other words, my basic sympathies are with him.” (p. 170)

Lorna Crozier has redressed this imbalance, with her “A Saving Grace”: Collected Poems of Mrs. Bentley (McClelland and Stewart 1996).  Dennis Cooley composed a long prairie poem, the bentleys (The University of Alberta Press, 2006).  Cooley combines poetics with documentary in his “Wind And Horses: a puritan tale of romance and intrigue set on the dirty thirties”, Dramatis Personae, copyright by Sinclair Ross, West of Eden Productions, 1947, a playbill with an afterword.”  “Wind And Horses” seems to be, in part, inspired by Ross in “Just Wind and Horses: A Memoir”, The Macmillan Anthology, Toronto: Macmillan, 1988, 83-97.

Part One “American Dream” contains letters from 1933-1945.  Part Two offers his “Canadian Failure” Letters from 1946-1960.  Elsewhere, David Stouck observed, “His larger dreams had not materialized—he was not, according to the standards of his era, a successful man for, as he would say, he never had a wife, owned a home or drove a car” in As For Sinclair Ross, (University of Toronto Press, 2005) p. 286.  Ross quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that “nothing fails like success…and sometimes not to succeed in the cheap, popular terms of success is perhaps a blessing.” (Collecting Stamps, p. 271) Part Three “Modest Hopes” contains Letters from 1962-1971.  Part Four “Succés d’estime has Letters from 1972-1974.  Part Five “Literary Forefather” contains Letters from 1975-1986. 

An Appendix offers an Interview with Sinclair Ross, 1971, Canadian Writers on Tape, Toronto, 1971.  Fortunately, Ross made a taped interview with Earle Toppings, in 1970, for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Series, reproduced here, in full (pp. 259-272).

The text is augmented with documents: photo reproductions of postcards, a black-and-white publicity photo, 1941; a photograph of Ross at his desk (from Royal Bank Archives) in the advertising office of the Royal Bank of Canada, Montreal, 1962; a photo of Ross in retirement in Spain, 1972, and, finally, in a private room at the Vancouver Veteran’s Home. (The latter was reproduced on the cover). 

In addition to the foreseeable missives from writers, publishers, agents, and editors, there is the unexpected confidential letter from the Editor of The Royal Bank Magazine, expressing praise for Ross’s exceptional talents as a writer and how “it seems a shame not to capitalize on them.” (p. 193) Although the stereotypical lone wolf mentality prevails, we also encounter Ross socializing with friends in Vancouver (in 1992), John O’Connor, Irene Harvalis, David Stouck, and Mary-Ann Stouck. Grant Macdonald was a Kingston illustrator who sketched Ross in 1948.  Ross responds to Grant about fresh beginnings and the “effect of making me feel important, that I really amount to something, and while, as I have already told you, I have a compulsive tendency to reject all such [praise], I am none the less grateful and encouraged.” (p. 49) Doris Saunders was a supporter at the University of Manitoba.  Professor Roy Daniells suggested that As For Me and My House was “the great Canadian novel, we have been waiting for” (p. 10) 1941. In turn, Ross signed himself affectionately as “Jimmy S. Ross”. There is a caricature of Ross by Isaac Bickerstaff from Tamarack Review, October 1975. Ross’s maternal uncle, a popular journalist, travel writer, lecturer, and author of more than twenty books, was knighted.  Ross received The Order of Canada in 1992.

The editors provide an abbreviated description of primary sources, an updated account of archival materials, and a list of secondary sources specific to this volume of Ross correspondence.  They did not attempt a full account of primary and secondary sources, but, instead, direct the reader to David Latham’s “A Reference Guide to Sinclair Ross”, in From the Heart of the Heartland: The Fiction of Sinclair Ross, edited by John Moss (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1992).  Bibliographical information, since 1990, can be found on the website for Andrew Lesk, University of Toronto. As for Archival Sources for Published Works by Sinclair Ross and Unpublished Manuscripts, most are still scattered in private holdings across Canada, in the archives of Macmillan and McClelland & Stewart (at McMaster University), and some items are in Public Collections.

Even a cursory view of the Chronology reveals that Ross was an outstanding exemplar of the writing life, producing work at a time when little was thought of Canadian Literature and Letters.  Although his education was limited to secondary school, he was a voracious reader and autodidact.  Nevertheless, his wry humour, always at his own expense, is clear from his remark in a 1972 letter to David Stouck,  “And I think the writing holds its own, although somebody reviewing it [Whir of Gold] in the Windsor Star, a bit viciously, said ‘Ross is reluctant to write a sentence…’ Well, I suppose it’s all part of the game or business or what somebody has called ‘the lamentable trade of letters.’ Stamps or butterflies would have been more fun.” (p. 140)

Admittedly, Margaret Laurence gave Ross credit for inspiring her own short story cycles of Manitoba’s Manawaka series, in her introduction to the New Canadian Library paperback Lamp at Noon. Ross was born and raised in Saskatchewan.  He moved to Montreal as a result of his work, after serving in the military overseas with the Ordinance Corps, in London, England. His remaining years were passed at a veteran’s hospital in Vancouver.  Did Ross even view himself as a literary mentor and forefather?  He insisted that he was a banker who wrote in what little spare time he had.

There is an unpublished short story “Old Chippendale” and “The Troopship Story” is an incomplete war memoir.  Ross destroyed a manuscript of “Teddy Do”, a novel about incest and pedophilia, a further exploration of the Philip-Steve relationship of As For Me and My House, and “The Flowers That Killed Him.” There was a sequel to Sawbones Memorial.

Among other concerns, Ross struggled with genre, “I am really a short story writer [but] I have the wind for a novella.” (p. 172)  Further, “I woke up to the number of novellas which publishers are bringing out these days.” (p. 174) “[S]uch a lot of money for a novella—who’s going to fork out?” (p. 189) He concludes, “If I was starting out again I think I’d concentrate on the novella.” (p. 258)

Given that Ross, (as Robert Kroetsch indicated in the obituary tribute and cited by David Stouck, in As for Sinclair Ross, p. 297), “embraced his historical moment with a kind of invisibility...The scarcity of personal material makes the glimpse we have of Ross in this [1971] interview that much more valuable.  (cited p. 259)

I have always associated his work and more recently, his life with that of J.D. Salinger (1919-2010), including the intense public acclaim (and author’s reclusive response) to The Catcher in the Rye, 1951, which caused the author’s retreat from the public and still sells 250,000 copies a year.  Subsequent, but lesser-known, short story collections, were: Nine Stories (1953), and a volume containing a novella and a short story, Franny and Zooey (1961), and a volume containing two novellas, Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963).  His last published work was also a novella, “Hapworth 16, 1924, in The New Yorker, on June 19, 1965.  There is even a short story “Teddy” about a boy with unusual thoughts. In 1948, Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” was published in The New Yorker magazine, which also published much of his subsequent work.

Ross was not only reading The New Yorker, he was submitting his short stories, beginning in the spring of 1934, adapting local details.  He was still reading The New Yorker in the late 1980s, albeit borrowed copies from Keath Fraser.

Ross does not mention Salinger in his list of influential books he shares with his biographer Lorraine McMullen, but he confesses that he has lapses in memory, to the extent that he fabricates an influence in his only taped interview, because “I was extremely nervous and had to say somebody.” (p. 219).

As For Me and My House was first published in 1949.  It sold fewer than 300 copies.  “At the centre is Ross, a reclusive man who almost invariably refused interviews and never gave public readings, but who always answered his mail.” (Introduction”, p. x).  Salinger gave his final interview in 1980, but only because of a court order and he wanted to suppress the unauthorized use of his work.

Further, Jordan Stouck points out that Ross refused to publicly admit his homosexuality, even in personal correspondence.  Ross’s letters never describe his homosexual experiences, but they do record some of his relationships with men and of desire in his writings.  Critics have already explored the unconventional permutations of sexual desires in his novels and short stories, given the social prohibitions that informed the encoded patterns of desire in his writings.

The fact remains that Ross destroyed a novel about man-boy love, he did not leave a diary or personal journal, but he still dared to dream of a well-paying and popular career as an author. His ambivalence is typical, given the frustration of his aspirations to become known and independent, while safeguarding his privacy.  His attempts to place stories with high-paying American markets were not successful, so that his dream was not realized. No wonder he concluded, “the writing life wasn’t worth the candle.” (p. 258)

When I was a graduate student at the University of Ottawa I wrote to Ross, in care of his publisher McClelland and Stewart, and, much to my delight, he responded.  His mailing address was quite simply Málaga, Spain, and my dubious Professor (rather than being impressed by my initiative?) thought that I might be withholding additional mailing information.  Fortunately, all was well when Lorraine McMullen (1926-2002)  and Ken Mitchell of the University of Regina  not only corresponded for a Twayne World Authors Series biography (1979) Lorraine was writing by 18 June 1976,  but also visited him in Spain, in early 1977. Mitchell produced Sinclair Ross: A Reader’s Guide. Moose Jaw: Coteau Books,   1981.  Keath Fraser produced a memoir, As For Me and My Body (ECW Press, 1997) which “outed” Ross as a gay man.

I had researched his other uncollected short stories published in serial or magazine form in Saturday Night, Queen’s Quarterly, Journal of Canadian Fiction which probably tweaked his interest.  This other anecdote may have been apocryphal but two students were welcomed into his home, until he heard from them, yet again, about his acclaimed As For Me And My House, an honour which frustrated him more than words can convey.

By 2001, there were new editions of his now classic Canadian short story collections, including The Lamp At Noon and Other Stories, and a paperback of his novels, Sawbones Memorial, The Well, and Whir of Gold, with a new collection The Race and Other Stories, edited by McMullen (University of Ottawa Press, 1982).  University of Alberta Press has made available to a new generation Ross’s seminal work, with new introductions: Sawbones Memorial, Introduced by Ken Mitchell, Whir of Gold, Introduced by Nat Hardy, and The Well, Introduced by Kristjana Gunnars.  The present collection of correspondence more than adequately complements the fiction and makes available original, previously unpublished, primary materials.

Jordan Stouck teaches Discourse Analysis at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus), with a particular interest in Canadian and Caribbean diasporic cultures and the history of Canadian Literature. 

David Stouck is Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University.  He produced biographies of Ethel Wilson and of Sinclair Ross, and edited As for Sinclair Ross, a collection of Ross Criticism for University of Toronto Press, (2005).

Anne Burke

Looking Back: Canadian Women’s Prairie Memoirs and Intersections of Culture, History, and Identity

Review of Looking Back: Canadian Women’s Prairie Memoirs and Intersections of Culture, History, and Identity, by S. Leigh Matthews (University of Calgary Press, 2010) 418 pp. paper $39.95 Indexed.

Looking Back: Canadian Women's Prairie Memoirs and Intersections of Culture, History, and IdentityThe prairie region was considered to be nothing other than a veritable wasteland, an area ill-suited for settlement and agriculture.  By the 1850s and 1860s, the area was favoured as the new Eden in the new dominion; concomitant with the values of aggression, dominance; and conquest of one gender over another, one culture over another; or even of humans over nature.  The concepts of Noble Savage and Vanishing Indian, by their absence, whether absorbed or distinct or provided with inclusion as extended family, were not (intentionally) racist.

Specific to Alberta, Mathews relies on Stan Rowe’s 1987 essay “The First 100 Years: Land Use in the Prairies” and Clara Middleton’s Green Fields Afar: Memories of Alberta Days (1947) of Carstairs, “I notice with delight that the prairie was not as dead-flat as in Saskatchewan or North Dakota”.  Ferne Nelson, in Barefoot on the Prairie: Memoirs of Life on a Prairie Homestead (1989), writes of “the gentle curves of the prairie” in Alberta (cited p. 303)

The author began reading memoirs simultaneously with contemporary and historiographical constructions of prairie life. These memoirists focused less on the specifics than on the narrative space devoted to more personal, tactile subjects of the prairie story.  She reveals herself as an eco-conscious reader of memoirs largely written after World War II or 1950.

The texts were written both from within and against agriculture as the building block of the nation.  Prairie memoirists openly or implicitly confront agricultural narratives, “allowing other subjects of prairie life to erupt through a seemingly conventional surface.” (p. 300).

These memoirs extend the confrontational potential of the memoir genre “by exhibiting a co-consciousness that effectively revisions the dominative and exploitive nature of large-scale agricultural practices.” (p. 300). The homesteading laws appeared to be more conducive to bachelor immigration to the Canadian West than the settlement of family units intent on a farming lifestyle. Indeed, “Canada is a man’s country” (Twentieth Century Canada, 1906).

A predominant source for relevant titles was the Bruce Peel Bibliography website at http://peel.library.ca.  The subjects of Matthews’ research are all relegated to a chapter on the “Seemingly Trivial” on the gap between domestic idyll and reality; sacred domestic objects and other household belongings; bread baking, cooking and knitting.  She engages in a discussion of the experience of childbirth, given the deprivation on western farms, with no electricity, running water, or privacy for hygiene.  There are some memory gaps and they lacked a sense of permanency. The Temperance Colonization Society, formed in 1882, was important to the colonization of Western Canada.

In a Chapter on Catharine Parr Traill, The Backwoods of Canada (1836); Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (1852); and Elinro Marsden Eliot, My Canada (1915), there is the dichotomy of “Dauntless Optimism/Perverse Endurance: Re-Visioning Literary Narratives of Settler Women”.  Emily Ferguson’s description of the “Pit” area of the Winnipeg Grain Exchange corresponds with Durkin’s golden image of wheat farming: “When I was a little girl I heard tell that the rainbow followed the plough.  This may be true, but one end of the bow rests on this Pit, and at its foot may be found the proverbial bag of gold” (Open Trails, 1912, p. 188, cited p. 195, note 31).

Autobiography is a biography written by the subject about herself. A memoir is written by the subject about the people and events that the author has known or witnessed, and also from a private diary or journal which offers a day-to-day record of the events in one’s life, written for personal use and satisfaction, with little or no thought of publication. (A Glossary of Literary Terms, by M.H. Abrams, 7th edition, Harcourt Brace, Fort Worth, 1999, p. 22)

The aim of studying this genre is to challenge the cultural images of Prairie Woman as well as the process of settlement.   Such texts seem to have been ignored in Canadian scholarship. The author convincingly makes the case that this “herstorical” lack is, by now, so well-documented that, it is beyond the scope of her examination to provide any substantial overview.   She suggests that the reader examine the sources, which purport to be concerned with a Saskatchewan context, but document a number of general prairie histories “which neglect women’s presence.” (p. 40)

Throughout,  Matthews draws on theoreticians, Helen Buss, for example, in Mapping Our Selves: Canadian Women’s Autobiography (1993), and Eliane Leslau Silverman, in “Women’s Perceptions of Marriage on the Alberta Frontier,” Building Beyond the Homestead (University of Calgary Press, 1988); The Last Best West: Women on the Alberta Frontier, 1880-1930 (Montreal: Eden Press, 1984); and “Women and the Victorian Ethic on the Alberta Frontier: Prescription and Description,” The New Provinces: Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-1980 (Tantalus Research, 1980).

The “precarious perch” of the decent woman, a domestic Angel, begins with a physical metaphor of the inability of a Victorian woman to balance on account of her corsets; then moves past physical constrictions to societal expectations of a domestic icon, pure and pious, frail or delicate, dependant on males.  The moment of “looking back” combines with the danger of falling from grace or invalidation of society’s values, due to the puritan state of mind on the prairie.  The identification of woman with the land, to be settled by the male as the conqueror, is pervasive.  Meanwhile, women as producers and reproducers, represent the future of colonization.

In “The Landscape Behind It”, the author explores an enduring cultural image of western land settlement as that of the white (assumedly male) prairie farmer and the post natural, agricultural landscape, usually devoid of any trace of either First Nations or non-human animal presence. 

A similar image is depicted in Rudy Wiebe’s autobiographical memoir Of This Earth (Vintage Canada, 2009) which I have reviewed elsewhere. He sensitively portrays his mother and the early death of his sister in a pioneer setting of Speedwell, Saskatchewan.
Dorothy Livesay edited the Collection Poems of Raymond Knister, poet and Ontario farmer.  There is the extended metaphor of writing and ploughing with the literal horsepower of Clydesdales.

According to Matthews, the plough is “a system, not only a piece of technology, an ideology of improvement, a language opposed to wilderness, nature and idleness.” (p. 307) She acknowledges the importance of a prairie woman settler’s garden to the household, for example, and gathering or berry-picking.

The agrarian myth is of a team of horses used to plough the land and controlled by a driver. He walks alone across the prairie landscape, suggesting the ideal ensuring prosperity.  The image of a lone human male is seen, literally and figuratively, scattering his seeds in the cultivation of a nation.  This overriding image of man’s vertical relationship to the landscape, in the service of creation of a nation, has pertinence “for a contextual understanding of land settlement issues.” (p. 298)

We find other contexts and texts, in Laurie Ricou’s Vertical Man/Horizontal World: Man and Landscape in Canadian Prairie Fiction (University of British Columbia Press, 1973) and Judy Schultz, in Mamie’s Children: Three Generations of Prairie Women (1997). There is the language of conquering the frontier and everything on it that had to be conquered.  Sod has to be “busted”, horses had to be “broken”, dogs and women had to be “tamed” Not so far a-field as Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, but Matthews includes Dick Harrison’s alternative images of a human presence to man’s dominating attitude towards the prairie landscape. The Manmade wild nature must be cultivated and domesticated along survivalist lines (witness Margaret Atwood’s Survival) family-centred, rather than profit-motivated.

There are extensions and applications of The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, introduction by Cheryll Glotfelt and Riane Eisler (University of Georgia Press, 1996).  Even in women’s selected memoirs, we still discover a father at the plough, “gloried in the prospect of the virgin land in need of mastering.”  (p. 299)  Other contexts are: “Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Reading the Orange” in Ecofeminist Literary Criticism: Theory, Interpretation, Pedagogy (University of Illinois Press, 1998) pp. 74-96; as well as on upholding Animal Rights and Feminist Theory, Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations (Duke University Press, 1995) pp. 1-8; Mrs. Bentley (by Lorna Crozier) a character from As For Me and My House, by Sinclair Ross, and the Bentleys, by Dennis Cooley, a long, narrative prairie poem.   Some fathers, in terms of their treatment of animals, are depicted unfavourably.

In “Conclusions”, Matthews reflects on her grandmother in the larger picture of the Prairie Woman’s reality, in real life, not sanitized.  She interprets the memoir as a form which rejects the climax for the nonlinear “along the way”. (p. 385) This is the art of looking back, a sort of redress, representing a feminist approach to re-visioning “beneath the surface”; in the here and now, not the next year country of men.  In gender-dominated contemporary narratives of settlement, females and their bodies could be judged for transgressions of geographic boundaries in life and texts. 

This landmark approach contains a Bibliography of thirty accounts in “The Memoirs” and two-hundred-and-fifty “Primary and Secondary Sources.”

Anne Burke

Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up?

Review of Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up?, by Geo Takach (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2010) 456 pp. paper $34.95. Indexed. black-and-white photographs. Bibliography.

Will The Real Alberta Please Stand Up, by Geo TakachMargaret Atwood, the first recipient of the Bob Edwards Award, noted that we are all immigrants here; she might have added “itinerants” or “nomads.”  Myrna Kostash, in a vein of political correctness, adds, “Don’t just take what white folks tell you at face value.”

As for Takach’s motivation to express his frustration and fascination with the Province of Alberta, at the outset he reveals “Like many Albertans, I escaped to here from somewhere else.”  As a result he was sensitive to discrimination and writes about Alberta as though he is, at times, an almost unwilling convert.

This compilation of fiction, nonfiction, and astute observation employs the Socratic method of philosophical questioning.  This is a skillfully astute summary of our political tapestry which discloses/reveals/revels in a province that is eclectic, with a kaleidoscope of colours, in both the natural and human varieties of landscape.

With a nod to the literary, Carl Sandburg’s 1918 poem “Prairie” and a “Toast to Alberta”, 1893, by Stephan G. Stephansson, Takach rapidly and breathtakingly rolls out Statistics Canada, poised with a Wikipedic and encyclopedic grasp of the facts. He becomes a conduit, an empty vessel, as an able proponent for (and against) free-ranging ideologies, from Jackie Flanagan’s “new” Western Alberta Views, as much as for the credo of William Aberhart’s Christian Bible Belt, and Ernest Manning’s thirty-year reign of Social Credit, from a radical regional perspective.

His invocation to his Muse is derived from a “near”-life-long interest in a province he has only called “home” since the glory days of disco.  He has escaped  the Front de Libération de Québec’s mail bombs and the land of Trudeau’s War Measures Act, after the abduction of Cross, a British ambassador to Canada, and Pierre Laporte (found murdered in the trunk of his car.)  The FLQ are not a distant memory.  Among other atrocities, books on “Cubism” were seized by the RCMP from private households due to a language barrier, the art sounded like “Cuba”.  

The author, a professional writer for two decades, hails from a Québec which featured tanks with armed military in the streets.  He refers to himself as a weekend project for his parents fleeing then-Communist Hungary.  Takach displays Bob Edwards’ caustic wit, self-confident take-no-prisoners tone, and does not abide fools gladly.

No doubt, the author has a very personal stake in the outcome.  He underscores how the French and the English “don’t always get along”.  Further, that members of the two founding nations “club” liked outsiders about as much as they liked each other [which they didn’t]”.

 “So we packed up and pointed the hood ornament westward.” The West has always been a hotbed for immigration, in waves, by ship, and cross-country; a soulless and soulful assortment as ever one could imagine.  Takach takes full advantage of his artistic license. 

At an early age he was “ever-sensitized” to prejudice. On his arrival, as a school boy, he was already defending Alberta against Ontario and Québec.  Having been freed “from the colonial bondage of biculturalism, I embraced our new home with the zeal of a revivalist rally.”  By turns, he was embarrassed, appreciative and proud; then furious when Albertans depicted the Province as a “backwater.”

According to Takach, the landscape inspired Leslie Takach, a painter and his father, who followed the call of the West from Quebec in the mid-1970s, after an earlier escape from Soviet-stained Hungary.

While he found a similar sense of liberation on entering friendlier Alberta, the vastness also made him feel more vulnerable and exposed than before.  “The sky is different, the horizon is wider, the colours are clean,” the father enthuses, “so this is a paradise for an artist, to create and copy the land.  It is like a dream of Walt Disney, a super-production.  This is the land I was searching for throughout my life.” (p. 24)

The Royal Alberta Museum houses a “Wild Alberta” exhibit, ironically the artful result of taxidermists.  Meanwhile, UNESCO World Heritage Sites abound. Alberta’s topographic weirdness mushrooms, with the hoodoos in the badlands near Drumheller, become the poster children for erosion.  There are both an official grass, rough fescue, and a provincial fish, which has been officially classified as a threatened species. (“Some of us find this ironic.”)

Takach states that he has celebrated the Province’s feats and foibles in print, speeches, films, comedy performances, music, on television, and the Web.  The Bibliography lists some of his articles for Alberta Views, Broadcast Dialogue, and Alberta Report.  We happily add, “Anatomy of an Albertan”, Prairie Journal Prose, No. 19 (1992) 45-49; “Maple Leaf Soul”, No. 37 (2001-02) 3-10; and Writing for Eternity: A Manifesto for a Manic Millennium” No. 48 (2007)39-45. In the latter, “Writing is more than cheap therapy.  And for sisters and brothers of the pen, that just might be eternity enough.” Atwood acknowledges that we “all began in a little magazine.”

This opus opens with a Preface “by” Bob Edwards (1860-1922), whose maternal grandfather, a Scottish immigrant arrived in 1897 in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, by way of a Wyoming ranch and an Iowa farm.  He was editor of the Calgary Eye Opener from 1901 to 1922. Takach envisions himself in mock epic and anti-heroic terms:  “My arrival came after a 3,000-kilometre slog in winter-whiteout conditions, cramped in the back of the family Buick.”

Many of these interviews were part of a parallel project, a one-hour documentary film the author conceived, wrote, hosted, directed and co-produced for City TV.  The DVD is available for order from www.mcnabbconnolly.ca.

“The Maverick Mantra” has recently been attached to Aritha van Herk’s Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta (2001) about western alienation from central Canada. As a Calgary Herald article opined, “Yet through it all, the idea of Alberta as a province driven by independent-minded groundbreakers has stuck around.  To the rest of Canada, as van Herk described it in her book, we’re still ‘aggravating, awful, awkward, awesome Alberta.’”

The weird implementation, of an otherwise noble goal, of promoting literacy and provoking dialogue about the city, resulted in a recent Calgary Public Library Project initiative called “One Book, One Calgary.”  The goal was to get the entire city reading the same book in order to encourage discussion about the city’s past and future.  Calgary: van Herk and Takach, Edmonton; The Flames: Calgary and The Oilers: Calgary; as van Herk has been described to us, in glowing terms, such praise can be shared with Takach.

Takach thoroughly employs endnotes and footnotes throughout, with a list of “Interviews Cited.” Unlike van Herk’s popular history, which was criticized, as “not academic history, one wonders if it is even good popular history.  Surely a certain level of research, methodology, analysis, and referencing is expected... [not the] lack of even basic referencing to source material used in the book.” (Terry L. Chapman, Medicine Hat College, Labour/Le Travail (Fall, 2007)

Furthermore, “van Herk has seen her carefully chosen titular word [Maverick] go through the wringer.  The term has been adopted, co-opted, misused, abused and reclaimed by politicians, marketers, the Maverick family of Texas, and, of course, Sarah Palin, who, along with Joe Biden, famously dropped the word 15 times in the 90-minutes U.S. vice-presidential debate of 2008.”  See: “Who are Calgary’s new mavericks? Help us name 10 new Calgary pioneers” (Tom Babin, Calgary Herald, September 12, 2010)

Takach describes “rednecks” in relation to social and fiscal conservatives; while nativism, combines with racial, religious or ethnic prejudice; with nationalism, anti-Semitism, eugenics; and Social Credit.  Overall, the ancestral burden of Québec Anglo-Franco animosity to “ethnics” more than outweighs whatever shortcomings this new land has to offer; to the extent he ventures, “That nobody calls the more militant Québecois ‘nationalists’ rednecks is another in a long conga-line of ironies gracing the nation.” (p. 89)

In Webster’s Ninth New College Dictionary,  “maverick” is defined as, a) “an unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf; b) an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party, c) characteristic of, suggestive of, or inclined to be a maverick”

Takach concludes, “At this point, there are plenty of arguments on both sides of the radical-or-redneck question.  In either case, there is much to support the notion of Albertans as deviants.” (p. 120)

Whether Ralph Klein, John A. Macdonald, or an Interview with Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, (“whom Albertans might take for granite”); Ted Byfield, Preston Manning, — practically speaking, there are simply too many to enumerate here.  The jewel in the Crown of this country is Alberta’s place in Confederation, whether historical, geographical, socio-economical, or otherwise.

Takach refers to Bob Edwards in the foreword, and in relation to Grant MacEwan, Bob introduced the notion that the relative populations estimated by Edmonton will be doubled by Calgary “to prove its imagination is not inferior to Edmonton’s” (p. 148); Takach concurs, and, on truth, Frank Oliver, an Edmontonian newspaperman, “must have borrowed Bob’s credo of ‘never letting the truth stand in the way of a good story’.  At least Mr. Edwards was open about it.” (p. 136).  He cites as a source The Best of Bob Edwards edited by Hugh Dempsey (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1975)

Takach is a consummate and prolific writer, instructor, speaker, and filmmaker based in Wild Rose Country.  He has suffered in his early life and then twice for his art; and now it is your turn to enjoy, and to be entertained, instructed, and enthralled by him.

Anne Burke

The Painted Valley: Artists Along Alberta’s Bow River, 1845-2000

Review of The Painted Valley: Artists Along Alberta’s Bow River, 1845-2000, by Christopher Armstrong and H.V. Nelles (University of Calgary Press, 2007) 160 pp. paper $54.95 Indexed

The present collection contains 200 paintings by about 70 artists, produced between 1845-2000. The editorial imperative excludes photographs as art, but does offer photos: of Carl Rungius sketching a bear at the Jonas Pass, Alberta, 1910 and painting under an umbrella, Banff.; of George Pepper, painting beside a lake in the Rockies, 1940s; of A.C. Leighton, painting in the mountains (n.d.); of H.G. Glyde at McDougall Church, Morely, Alberta; of James Nicoll, with dog, 1946; and of Marion Nicoll with dog, Calgary, circa 1946. There are lists of the colour plates and black-and-white illustrations, spanning a 150-year period.

According to the authors, there were five “schools” of art: 1) “Imperial Topographers”; 2) “Railway Romantics”; 3) “The Long Shadow of Impressionism”; 4) the British watercolour tradition, and 5) Abstraction and return to landscape painting in “Modernism and After”.

In group 1) we find: Henry James Warre (the first European painter) and his Sketches in North America (1839-1847), based on Edmund Burke principles on the Sublime. Others artists were: R. Barrington Nevitt, a physician without formal art training; Governor General, Lord Lorne, a talented amateur; and C.W. Jeffreys.

In group 2) we learn that, although the steam engine was excluded from art, tourism promotion was funded by the CPR railway, in the mid-1980s. “[It] did not ruin paradise, but rather made paradise more accessible to the artist.” (p. 39). William Van Horne was an amateur artist himself and Melton Prior was an English illustrator, for the London Illustrated News. Others artists were: Thomas Moran; Lucius O’Brien (influenced by Ruskinian art that should have a moral purpose, for Picturesque Canada); Albert Bierstadt, of the Hudson River School; John A. Fraser; Frederick M. Bell-Smith, T. Mower Martin, Marmaduck Matthews; John Hammond; Fredrick Verner, Edward Roper, and Leonard Davis.

Group 3) is about Impressionism, in the 1870s and 1889s. European subjects painted by Canadian artists did not sell well at home. (European outsiders brought the new techniques to Canada.) Some artists mentioned are: Lars Haukaness, Carl Rungius, and Belmore Browne. Of Peter and Catharine Whyte, it is said that she was the more talented of the two” and he “was considerably less accomplished than his wife” (pp. 57-8). Peter’s nephew was Jon (a former president of the Writers Guild of Alberta). The Whytes’ regard for the late stylized mountain paintings of Lawren Harris is described thus, “[It] seems to have stumped the Whytes, for they complained that these paintings looked more like jelly moulds than the real thing.” (p. 58) Robert Gissing is mentioned. There are also a few problems in style. For example, narrating from the point of view of Canadian artists, the authors discuss the influence of the Group of Seven members before the artists themselves (pp. 58, 60). Other artists mentioned are: France Pepper, Kathleen Daly, and Doris McCarthy. Of Illingsworth Kerr, we are told, his paintings were “too modern” for some tastes. Marion Nicoll( née McKay) was anaemic and underweight”, according to her mother.

In group 4), there is a comparison between local artists and “visitor” artists, during the 1920s-1930s. A.C. Leighton, who disliked modernism, was associated with the foundation for the visual arts section of the new Banff School of Fine Arts. He married Barbara Harvey. He was friends with H.G. Glyde, who disliked restrictions of the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (an education intended for school teachers). Glyde, founded the University of Alberta Fine Art Department, in 1946. Reginald L. Harvey was a roving supervisor of art education for the Calgary school system from 1922to 1931. Harve,py, with Leighton, organized the Alberta Society of Artists.

There are some repetitive (or overlapping) biographical details: on Harvey (p. 73-4, 84); on James Nicoll (p. 67, married to Marion McKay, then met and married Marion McKay, pp. 86-89); and on Illingsworth “Buck” Kerr (pp.64- 68, 96).

Walter J. Phillips, an art teacher at St. John’s Technical High School., taught at Banff School of Fine Arts, in 1940, and was appointed to the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art. (He died in 1963). Other artists mentioned are: Robert Campbell, Herbert Earle, William Hobson; Frederick Cross, James Nicoll, Richard Moore; Luke Lindoe, Holly Middleton, and Margaret Shelton.

In group 5) several artists are mentioned: J.W.G. (Jock) Macdonald (who spent only a single year in Alberta); Marion Nicoll, (of the first Emma Lake Workshop); Ted Godwin, Dorothy Knowles, Ken Christopher; Walter Drohan, Lynn Malin, J.B. Taylor; David Pugh, and Sydney Barker. (See: aboriginal artists referenced below).

In the Conclusion, Chapter 8, “The Power Of Landscape”, the authors sum up how painters have imagined the Bow River Valley: what they expressed about changing views of the natural world and the environment. Mitigating factors that must be considered are outside cultural influences, human agents, public policy, and the post-Edenic perspective.

Since the nineteenth-century, (with Fort Calgary and after the Second World War), The Bow River has been imagined in maps, the law, science, and literature. The authors consulted libraries, archives, government records and newspapers. They culled items from the City of Calgary, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Library and Archives Canada, the National Gallery of Canada, and very few from the Banff School of Fine Art.

Their selection was informed by the imperative that it must be of commercial value, yet they acknowledge: “Alberta had almost no full-time resident professional artists able to earn a living from the sale of their work before 1930.” (p. 71) Armstrong and Nelles, as Professors Emeritus, stipulate that they act as “environmental historians rather than art critics. However, they view nature as art, rather than as mimesis (art “aping” or imitating nature).

Of the indigenous, they refer to aboriginal traditional modes of artistic expression, such as: carving, decoration of objects, and recording collective histories. Except for artists Norval Morriseau and William Huston, the producers of objects art on the Bow River and its Valley “are surprisingly scarce”. (p. 104) Two Gun (also known as “Percy Plain Woman” or Plainswoman”) and folk artists such as Eric Hartmann, Virginia Hemmingston, E.J. Hughes; Magic Realist Rene Thibault, and Jeffrey Spalding are mentioned.

The first draft of the text , by Armstrong, was written for the American Society for Environmental History, re: a meeting in 2004, in Victoria, B.C. It was rewritten for presentation by Nelles. See also: H.V. Nelles, “How did Calgary Get its River Parks,” Urban History Review 34 (2005).

Other sources are: The Bow: Living with a River (presented at the Glenbow during the Alberta Centennial) which contains essays by Gerald Conaty, Daryl Beneti and Catharine Mastin, published by Key Porter Books, 2005 and A History of Art in Alberta, 1905-1970, by Nancy Townshend, from Bayeux Arts of Calgary, in 2005. See also: An Alberta Art Chronicle: Adventures in Recent and Contemporary Art by Mary-Beth Laviolette (Canmore: Altitude, 2006) and Lisa Christensen, A Hiker’s Guide to the Art of the Canadian Rockies (Calgary: Fifth House, 1996 and 1999).

The Bow River and Valley is a region, about which the authors offer a brief account of the “urban” river compared with the pastoral, the picturesque; throughout it operates as a symbol and is seasonal.

I highly recommend this resource as more than another coffee table book, since it offers a sumptuous assortment of delights for the eye.

Anne Burke

The Good Steward: The Ernest C. Manning Story

Review of The Good Steward: The Ernest C. Manning Story, by Brian Brennan (Calgary: Fifth House, 2008) 256 pp. Cloth $24.95 black-and-white photographs. Appendix. Notes. Selected Bibliography. Indexed.

This is the first and, hopefully not the last, biography of Alberta’s longest serving Premier. Among his sources, Brennan, a journalist by trade, consulted a family memoir, written by Manning’s wife Muriel. He combines first-hand interview transcripts with newspaper accounts. This is a compact narrative, suitable for readers who do not wish to scan the entire twelve-volume history series Alberta in the 20th Century, published between 1991 and 2006.

Manning felt called by the Ministry of William Aberhart. He attended the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute, from 1927-1930, when, at the age of twenty-one, he became the Institute’s first graduate. (Both men were influenced by Major Clifford Douglas and promoted Social Credit to their radio listeners.) The first meeting of the Alberta Social Credit League as a political party was held here in 1935. When Aberhart became Premier, he promised to settle Alberta’s debt by issuing provincial bonds and “Funny Money” or prosperity certificates. Much of this legislation was repealed, but the Alberta Treasury Branch (“near-banks”) was a successful venture.

At the age of twenty-six, Manning was the youngest cabinet member in the British Empire. Except for a five-month absence due to illness, he kept his public life separate from his private life, marriage and children. He was refused for military service during the Second World War. In 1943, at the age of thirty-four, he was sworn in as Alberta’s eighth Premier, to replace Aberhart who had passed away. He called his first election as leader in 1944, Social Credit winning fifty-one of the fifty-seven seats. The discovery of oil in 1947 was made at Leduc. Manning rejected public ownership of the oil industry; keeping ownership of productive enterprises in private hands. He still supported agriculture as Alberta’s number-one industry. He wanted to purge the Party of anti-Semites or Douglasites. Further, he restricted the amount of land Hutterite colonies could own under the Communal Property Act (and this was in force, until the Lougheed Conservative government won an upset victory, in 1971.)

From 1947 to 1952, the Politics of Oil and Gas largely replaced concerns about debt and spending. Commercial development of the Athabasca oil sands became the big Alberta energy story after 1962. Although there was a debate about exports, public confidence in the government remained unshaken. That is, until scandal and corruption became issues, in 1955. He replaced the second and third choices on ballots, with the one-candidate, one-vote system. Based on surveys, he cancelled the bonus scheme of Citizens’ Participation Dividends. Instead, more funds were expended on public work projects, such as Foothills Hospital and the Provincial Archives and Museum, as well as education.

Besides his duties as Premier and Party Leader, he also served as Attorney General and Minister of Mines and Minerals. Manning was kept in power, until his retirement in 1968. He received Honourary degrees from the University of Alberta and Athabasca University, but continued his evangelical mission work. In 1970, he was appointed a Senator and served, in that capacity, for thirteen years. There was no public funeral.

Only one experimental initiative of his government came “unnervingly close to actually happening”. That was an Oil Sands nuclear bomb proposal, approved by Canada’s Atomic Energy Commission, the Alberta Research Council, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, in 1959.

The controversial plan was to detonate a nuclear bomb in the Athabasca Oil Sands. Research scientists reported that heat from an underground nuclear explosion would melt the sand and release liquid hydrocarbons. The molten sand would solidify into a huge glass bubble, trapping most of the radiation inside. The oil companies would pump out the liquefied oil. The United Nations Disarmament Commission inadvertently “scuttled” the test. Talks were underway that nuclear tests, even for peaceful purposes, were ending.

Brennan, a former columnist for the Calgary Herald, is the author of Scoundrels and Scallywags: Characters from Alberta’s Past (2002); Boondoggles, Bonanzas and Other Alberta Stories (2003); and Building a Province: 60 Alberta Lives (2008).

Anne Burke

Botero’s Beautiful Horses

Review of Botero’s Beautiful Horses, by Jan Conn (Brick Books, 2009) With notes, Selected Sources, and Acknowledgements.

This collection is graced by the poet’s familiarity with Latin America and Octavio Paz.

In the first section “The Light of Poinsettias”, she illumines the “art of the new Latin American century” via a funicular to Monserrate and a view of flowers for the export market. (“Altitudinal Essence”, p. 28) She muses, “By day’s end I’m one with/ the whit plaster feet protruding from stacked firewood.”

In the second section, “Cosmological”, she examines the Valley of Mexico, in terms of what P.K. Page praised “All the images of darkness hovered for me in the Mexican sunlight” an epigraph for the collection, but Conn chooses moonlight: the Aztec gods whether monkeys, or of rain and maize, and their foremothers, like Henry Moore and Charles Olson, become gist for the mill of “Little-girl-from-Quebec-who-years-to-fly eyes” (“Campeche”, p. 41). Conn was raised in Asbestos, Quebec.

In the third section “Blunted Gold”, she coins “A swizzle stick for your pensées” (“Dali d’Hiver”, p. 51) and puns on “To err is not human” (“Comma Comma She Said”, p. 59) She embraces Salvador Dali, Georgia O’Keefe, and Lorca. Even one of her love poems employs mathematical language. “In search of flight, I am shameless as the Wright brothers” (“Signs of Water”, p. 54). She is preoccupied by flying machines (“Demise of the Flame Trees”, p. 57) A poem like “Spanish Insane Asylum, 1941” is shocking and graphic, followed by “Lip-Reading Jean Cocteau”.

In the fourth section “Amazonia”, there is a group of poems which won second prize for the CBC Literary Awards, 2003. Some were broadcast on CBC Radio, CHSR, CKDU, or as the Poem of the Week Parliamentary Pot Laureate’s website. She bears the burden of “the only child” in relation to her mother’s death (“Cametá) because she was immersed in the rain forest of Sky God, where her mother, ironically, has prepared a path for her. (“Belém”). Some of these poems employ an elongated line, aurora borealis-like. Her professional interest in insects layers her appreciation of the flora and fauna, the ever present iguana.

In the fifth section, “Absolute Love”, she sketches something from nothing, in this instance, a lagomorph (“The Hydraulics of Rabbit”, p. 93). She equates her identification of species with a familial loop of love. (“I Can’t Identify to Species”, p. 95) She learned from her father figures, one of whom was El Greco, “we’re closer now to the never-never” (p. 97). She encounters nebulae, a meteorologist, and the alchemist, while avoiding memories of “her catastrophic childhood” (“In a Dry Place”, p. 101). The rain forest yields: “fingers brushing the leaves/as though reading Braille.” (p. 103)

In the sixth section “Harmonium”, Neptune and Eros, Flannery O’Connor, Charles Darwin, and the Minotaur converge in a Guide to Brueghel (“Rural Diorama”) In “Iconographic”, she muses on Tasmania, as well as on pentagrams. What marries mythical figures galore is a mystical lute making harmonics of the spheres.

This is a seventh book for Conn, after Jaguar Rain: the Margaret Mee Poems (Brick Books, 2005). A selection of Amazonian poems won second prize in the CBC literary awards, 2003. She won the inaugural P.K. Page Founders Award for poetry, in 2006. She received a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Toronto in 1987 and is a Professor of Biomedical Sciences.

Anne Burke

Casino State: Legalized Gambling in Canada

Review of Casino State: Legalized Gambling in Canada, edited by James F. Cosgrave and Thomas R. Klassen (University of Toronto Press, 2009) 268 pp. cloth Bibliography, Indexed.

According to a report in the Edmonton Journal, the province initially expected to take in almost $1.5 billion in lottery and gaming revenue this fiscal year, but that estimate has been dropped by $150 million.

Provincial governments view gambling as a voluntary tax from which many benefits flow. This text book illumines the socio-historical context for legalized gambling in Canada, since the 1970s and in the early 1990s when casinos (resort, rural, urban, and local) prevailed. The essays examine gambling in relation to the cost and benefits, markets and consumers.

Chapter 1) “Introduction: The Shape of Legalized Gambling in Canada” is an adequate summary of the evidence-based decision making which forms the basis for this research.

Part One examines “Morality, Markets, and the State”. Chapter 2 “’Blood Money’: Gambling and the Formation of Civic Morality” analyzes Gambling and the Moral Economy, as well as Gambling and Moral Reform, in the Early Twentieth Century Canada, Gambling Revenue and Funding Regimes”. Some of these ideas were initially presented at a conference on “Gambling Theory”, Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism” at the University of Western Ontario and “Social and Economic Costs and Benefits of Gambling”, a conference at the Alberta Gambling Research Institutive, in Banff, Alberta.

Moral reformers, such as agrarian progressive women and members of the WCTU, used producerist ideas to condemn production of useless or pernicious goods, such as alcohol. (p. 28) Virtue and vice were gendered and arranged in competing versions of masculinity: a masculine domestic respectability and a bachelor masculinity. “For agrarian and social feminists, this latter form of masculinity tended to be associated with militarism as well as vice.” (p. 44, note 11) Feminist moral reformers “saw eugenics as a self-evidently ‘progressive’ answer to mental and moral ‘degeneration.’” (p. 44, note 12)

Chapter 2) “Governing the Gambling and Citizen: The State, Consumption, and Risk” compares pharmaceuticals, as to risk-reward, Gambling Markets, the State, and Risk Management (from a macro-economic perspective), reflexive liberalization, gambling as risky consumption, governing the gambling citizen, and conclusions of this chapter. One view is the idea that gambling should contribute to good causes.

Part Two: “Comparative Gambling Policy Frameworks” begins with Chapter 4) “Canadian Gambling Policies”, Gambling is a “big business in Canada” (p. 69), in addition to Canadian Criminal Code Provisions. The Canadian Operational-Regulatory Models are: 1) The Crown Corporation Model, 2) the Hybrid Model, 3) The Charity Model, and 4) First Nations. The trenchant arguments discuss Policy Objectives Underpinning Gambling’s Legalization; Policy Paradoxes, Regulatory issues, economic benefits, controlling illegal gambling, and conclusions.

Chapter 5) Gambling Policy and Regulation in Australia provides: historical origins, regulation, social costs and problem gambling, regulatory reform and re-regulation, current trends, and conclusions.

Part Three “Governments and Gambling Policy” begins with Chapter 6) “The Policies of Gambling Legitimation and Expansion in Ontario”, including history, state strategies, and conclusions.

Chapter 7) “Government as Gambling Regulator and Operator: The Case of Electronic Gaming Machines”, examines the Gambling Expansion Era, The Precautionary Principle, Government Structure and Function, the Social Policy Challenge, and conclusions.

Part Four “Gambling and Social Issues” begins with Chapter 8) “Gambling-Related Crime in a Major Canadian City”, dealing with previous research, gambling-related criminological theory, and the Edmonton Gambling-related Crime Project, conclusions, and implications.

Chapter 9) “Youth Gambling: A Canadian Prospective” studies adolescent gambling behaviour, adolescent problem gambling, correlates and risk factors associated with problem gambling, situational/environmental risk factors, prospective studies, treatment, prevention models, and conclusions.

A companion volume might be on Illegal Gambling and its Consequences. Horse-racing was a class-appropriate sport that also served military and imperial interest in the provision of calvary. (p. 43, note 9) As I write, the Wildrose Party is calling for the elimination of the $25 million annual grant to horse racing.

The contributing editors of this collection of nine essays offer an Introduction on “The Shape of Legalized Gambling in Canada” and a joint paper on “The Policies of Gambling Legitimization and Expansion in Ontario.”

Cosgrave, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Trent University, offers a paper in his own right, “Governing the Gambling Citizen: The State, Consumption, and Risk.” Klassen is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at York University.

This comprehensive reference source provides Appendices on: “Major Gambling Resources”, such as the Alberta Gaming Research Institute and the Canada West Foundation, and Provincial “Problem Gambling Help lines.” Of the latter, it should be noted that this text book is intended “For all Canadians and their families who haven’t been so lucky.” The cover design is aptly based on a photograph of a neon CASINO sign and a row of VLT “slot” machines.

The extensive Bibliography deals with Archival Sources and Published Sources, for additional research.

Anne Burke

The Woman’s Page: Journalism and Rhetoric in Early Canada

Review of The Woman’s Page: Journalism and Rhetoric in Early Canada, by Janice Fiamengo (University of Toronto Press, 2008) 252 pp. paper $25.95 Bibliography, Indexed. black-and-white-photographs.

This study, by an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa, deals with six women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their poetry, journalism, essays, and speeches display ferment, spirit, assertiveness, and moral confidence. They deal with the Issues of the New Woman, the Labour Question, maternal feminism, and matters of faith.

The germ of the project was the “ReCalling Early Canada: Reading the Political in Literary and Cultural Production Conference”, to which Fiamengo contributed “Baptized with tears and sighs: Sara Jeannette Duncan and the Rhetoric of Feminism”, published by the University of Alberta Press, in 2005.

Women began to be hired by Canadian newspapers in the 1880s; women were attracted to journalism because, as an occupation, it was: respectable, clean, and public. (p. 125) The election act barred convicts, lunatics, and idiots, as well as women. In 1918, Canadian women finally won their federal vote.

In a Critical “Introduction: Strong Statement, Trenchant Ideas, Promising Plans”, Fiamengo alludes to The Age of Light, Soap, and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925, by Mariana Valverde (1991) and Settler Feminism and Race Making in Canada, by Jennifer Henderson; Practising Femininity, by Misao Dean (1998); Liberation Deferred: The Ideas of the English-Canadian Suffragists, by Carol Bacchi, (1983), and other reference sources.

In Chapter One, “Agnes Maule Machar, Christian Radical”, the critic agrees with Machar (1837-1927), also known as “Fidelis”, to dispense with the notion that linked work and higher learning with “unwomanliness.” Machar wrote novels, For King and Country (1874) (about the War of 1812); Marjorie’s Canadian Winter ((1892); Roland Graeme: Knight: A Novel of Our Times (1892), and a collection of short stories, Stories of the British Empire (1913); as well as for Canadian Monthly and National Review (1872-8), Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review (1878-82), and The Week (1883-96). “Part of her rhetorical and political effectiveness involved erasing the distinction between the social and the spiritual.” (p. 37) she supported the Salvation Army and opposed the exploitation of factory workers, such that women were exposed to alcohol, dissipation and sexual immorality.

In Chapter 2, “The Uses of Wit: Sara Jeanette Duncan’s Self-Fashioning”, the critic deals with “Woman’s World” columns in the Toronto Globe during the mid-1880s by Duncan (1861-1922). She explored the Woman Question, attending meetings incognito, and published under the pseudonym “Garth Grafton”. She used parody, invective, metonymy, and comic scenes. “The verbal concision, structural elegance, and syntactical complexity— as well as the sardonic assessment of American republicanism—are characteristic.” (pp. 74-5) She also wrote for the Washington Post, the Montreal Star, The Week, and the Indian Daily News, (the last- mentioned was edited by her husband.) She represented the New Woman in Canada, worked as a literary editor and was a parliamentary correspondent. She produced interviews, book reviews, sketches, travel articles and tirades. In addition to books of non-fiction, she wrote novels, A Daughter of To-day (1894) and Set in Authority (1906). She praised poet Pauline Johnson’s poem “Brant: A Memorial Ode.”

In Chapter 3, "'This graceful olive branch of the Iroquois': Pauline Johnson’s Rhetoric of Reconciliation”, the focus is on Duncan’s interview with Johnson (1861-1913), which was published in the Globe, at a time when many Anglo-Canadians anticipated: “with relief”, the “eventual disappearance” of aboriginals. (p. 90) Johnson was born a Mohawk on the Six Nations Reserve, where she was raised. Johnson said she wished to “upset the Indian Extermination and Non-education Theory.”(p. 89) The banning of the potlatch and institutionalization of residential schools are the backdrop for a vocabulary (of “dusky”, “exotic”, and tomahawk as weapon) which is “degrading” to Johnson, as well as the sexism of uniting “Red and White in ‘one common Brotherhood’.”

The critic examines newspaper accounts of Johnson’s performances, summarizing many reviews. She analyzes Johnson’s verse, such as “The Reinternment of Red Jacket”(1884), “A Cry from an Indian Wife”(1885), “Brant, A Memorial Ode”(1886); and prose pieces “My Mother” (1909), “Catherine of the Crow’s Nest (1910), “A Red Girl’s Reasoning” (1893); “As It Was in the beginning” (1899), “A Pagan in St. Paul’s Cathedral” (1906) and “We-hro’s Sacrifice” (1907), all of them fiction.

In Chapter 4 “Gossip, Chit-Chat, and Life Lessons: Kit Coleman’s Womanly Persona, Fiamengo introduces Kathleen Blake Coleman (1856-1915), as not only belonging to the first generation of Canadian newspaper women, but also as being “probably the most famous of them in her day.” (p. 120) Coleman wrote a regular column “Woman’s Kingdom” for the Toronto Daily Mail, from 1890 to 1911, and produced a syndicated column, traveling widely. She was the first woman war correspondent, when she was sent to Cuba to cover the Spanish-American War of 1898 and a founding member if the Canadian Women’s Press Club, in 1904. She married a bigamist and supported two children. She once dressed as a man and counseled a woman whose son cross-dressed. In “A Woman’s Page”, she wrote advice columns with anonymous correspondents, but distained recipes and household hints. She overcame criticism of her work as “bad” writing, due to testimonials from her “fans”. She promoted journalism as a profession and disputed the assumption that writing was a relatively easy job “accessible to anyone with a pen.” (p. 134) She opposed birth control and abortion. She wrote that “no woman worth knowing is without enemies.” (p. 129) She believed in the equality of men and women, that emancipation of women was inevitable, but worked for the Conservative Mail, which officially opposed suffrage.

In Chapter 5, “Heroines and Martyrs in the Cause: Suffrage as Holy War in the Journalism of Flora MacDonald Denison” (1867-1921), Fiamengo portrays Denison, a columnist for the Toronto Sunday World, from 1909 to 1913, as a leading activist in the Canadian suffrage movement and is revealed to be the mother of playwright Merrill Denison. She was separated from her husband and left responsible for supporting her son. After she attended the International Suffrage Alliance Conference in Copenhagen, she served as president of the Canadian Suffrage Association, from 1911 to 1914. She championed Emmeline Pankhurst, as “a woman willing to give her freedom or her life for the sake of principle...one we will all want to see and hear.” (p. 154) There is a distinction made between: “suffragette” and the more moderate “suffragist”, although Denison is associated with both public and private manifestations. She scorned the church’s concern with “race suicide” (abortion or birth control) and religious hypocrisy. Her column of storytelling, sensationalism, sentence fragments, incomplete observations, and anecdotes, was titled “The Open Road towards Democracy.” She stated: “Men need women in politics; women need men in the home.” (p. 162) She praised Elizabeth Fry for prison reform. She produced one novel and left another incomplete.

In Chapter 6, “Nellie McClung and the Rhetoric of the Fair Deal”, we learn McClung (1873-1951) published an edition of her speeches as In Times Like These (1915). She had the qualities of organization, expression, and development. She used parody, aphorisms, and witty rebuttals “to revivify” suffrage rhetoric. “The smaller the man the more disposed he is to be jealous.” (p. 203) The critic examines McClung’s published essays in terms of rhetoric, as well as her speeches, as “tactics demonstrating her ability to craft a revolutionary program of emancipation from the restrictive domestic sphere established in conservative discourse.” (p. 178) She combined humour, anecdotes, aphorisms, irony, emotional appeal, and logic. As an orator, she used gestures, modulations of voice, and a blend of humour; denunciation and pathos, according to newspaper accounts. She used language familiar to her audience, freshening it, revitalizing clichés, redefining overused words; and enlivening standard phrases with her wit, humour, and command of anecdote. She manipulated the words of her opponents. She wrote two novels Sowing Seeds in Danny (1908), and The Second Chance (1910), and a collection of short stories The Black-Creek Stopping House (1912).

In the “Conclusion”, the critic compares all six writers in relation to maternal ideology, Christian discourse and social values.

The cover illustration of rapt travelers (engrossed in reading pages from a broadsheet while riding on the Canadian Pacific Railway) is apt, since it appeared in What Actual Settlers Say of the Canadian North-West (Montreal, circa 1888).

This is a valuable resource for schools of journalism, programs of Canadian Studies, Departments of English, Canadian and American Literatures, as well as Women’s Studies.

Anne Burke

The Prairie West as Promised Land

Review of The Prairie West as Promised Land, edited by R. Douglas Francis and Chris Kitzan (University of Calgary, 2007) 486 pp. paper $54.95 Indexed.

With a schematic “Introduction” by the editors, this collection of eighteen essays deals with the evolution (and devolution) of the Prairie West as a “Perfect Society”; its European settlers as the “Chosen People”, from about 1841 to 2005. The themes are treated historically and culturally, with the inevitable overlapping, accompanied by the judicious use of black-and-white photographs.

The Garden City and the City Beautiful were emblems of social process in the Edwardian Age. Thomas Mawson, who came to Calgary in 1912, delivered an address “The City on the Plain and How to Make it Beautiful” to the newly formed City Planning Commission. He prepared Calgary, Past, Present and Future, originally called Calgary: A Preliminary Scheme for Controlling the Economic Growth of the City. The Mawson Plan of 1914 set forth the Armouries at the end of Seventh Avenue and a proposed university. The Bow River “itself would be the focal point of a continuous system of parks, playgrounds, and boat reaches.” He advised city council to reserve all riverside areas and land which could not be developed. The river escarpments were preserved for natural park development, linked by bridges (ending at a low-level Centre Street Bridge). Other features were railway depots, shopping malls, and open-air market, with glassed-roof sections. He anticipated the motor-car, with the necessity of diverting traffic out of the city centre, on diagonal spokes to the outlying area. World War I intervened. Not only were the plans (which cost six thousand dollars) not implemented, but they were discovered insulating the walls of an inner city garage. (pp. 182-3)

Of merit is the account of Nellie McClung, based on her autobiographical writing, of “Vision Of The Prairie West As Promised Land”. She was the wife of a prairie pharmacist, who moved from Manitoba to Edmonton, in 1914, and her speeches, as an Alberta MLA from 1921 to 1926, are mentioned.

It appeared that “Alberta was the last, best West, the last frontier of North American settlement, the last place for a Promised Land” (p. 256)

Nevertheless, according to “Immigrant Arrivals In Canada” (1921), (in “Uncertain Promise: The Prairie Farmer And The Post-War Era”) Alberta, (used to growth and immigration), saw some 60,000 people leave, in the 1930s and early 1940s. By 1947, the abandonment rate of relief families settled on farms was at 70 per cent. Edmonton grew faster than Calgary over this period and was, by 1951, the province’s largest city. (p. 340) Between 1921 and 1961, consolidation increased, such that the average farm in Alberta, in 1931, was 605 acres, to over 1400 acres, by 1951. The population had decreased by almost 50 per cent. There was more machinery, albeit with fewer farmers, who lacked political clout.

In 16) George Melnyk, on “The Artist’s Eye: Modernist And Postmodernist Visualizations Of The Prairie West”, deals with “Prairie Harvest”, (circa 1920), by Alec J. Musgrove; “The Exodus”, (1941), by Henry G. Glyde; “Grainscape”, by Don Proch; “Singing the Joys of the Agrarian Society”, (1970), and “Mixed Farming”, (1970), by Vic Cicansky; “Time Expired”, (1973), by Joan Nourry-Barry; and “Farm Drawing”, (1977), by Norman Yates.

In 17) on the Saskatchewan Golden Jubilee, local celebrations, and dedication of the Museum of Natural History, (in 1956), the latter “signified the centrality of Promised land narratives to the anniversary celebrations” (p. 393)

In 18) on Co-Operatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan, (1905-2005), many were dissolved post-World War I; others formed, in the 1920s, were dissolved, in the 1930s. Twelve Saskatchewan farmers, in 1934, decided to control transnational petroleum supplies. (p. 417) The article discusses the cultural importance of locality and social cohesion of the two provinces.

The motif of “Promised Land” is derived from the Book of Exodus, 13:5, in which the Chosen People were led to “a land of milk and honey.” It loosely corresponds with the American dream, of the United States of America, and colonialist aims of the British Empire.

An essential reference is by Northrop Frye, in The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian Imagination. From Section I “Visions Of The Promised Land”, we read about early explorers, such as in 1) on John Palliser, Henry Hind, S.J. Dawson (brother of William Dawson) and Lorin Blodgett, explorers of the Canadian North West. Also mentioned are the poet Charles Mair and The Canada First Group (George Denison, R.G. Haliburton, W.A. Foster, and H.J. Morgan, during the 1850s and 1860s).

In 2) we find: Ballantyne, G.A. Henry, Butler, Johnstone, Fraser, Lumsden, Cran, all British Writers in Canadian North West (from 1841-1913). In 1895, fewer than 1,500 new homesteads were granted in Saskatchewan and Alberta. This number rose to more than 40,000, in 1911. (p.49, note 10)

In 3) on the Rocky Mountain Parks Act, (1887), and Romanticism, there are mentions of aboriginal sacred sites. The European vision was as escape or to be plundered. J.B. Harkin, was the first commissioner of the National parks, in 1911, whose appointed author of guide books was Mabel B. Williams. Whereas the wheat field was worth $4.91, the value of picturesque land was $13.88 (p. 64)

In 4) Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior in the Liberal government of Sir Wilfred Laurier (whose policy was of two founding peoples) was named Attorney General of Manitoba by Premier Greenway, in 1891. The provincial insistence was that English be the language of schooling, to speed assimilation. The functional region replaced the imagined region, associated with various themes, including “spin” doctors, and a testimonial on Egg Lake, Alberta (p. 86)

In Part II “Settling The Promised Land”, in 5) "The Plains Cree and Agriculture (to 1900)" explores why farming did not form the basis of a viable economy for these people (treaties were broken) with die-off of the buffalo, inadequate tools were provided, combined with unfair practices, government corruption, and a view they were not “true” homesteaders, while the facts shows that Europeans felt threatened by competition.

In 6) “Utopian Ideals”, “The abortive utopia was thus a common mirage in the vanishing landscape of the pioneering West.” (p. 150) Further, “Whether aristocratic or democratic, liberal-anarchist, communist or socialist, the utopian experiments were a necessary pastoral phase in the pioneer development of the West.” (p. 151) This Edenic quest for “paradise” (1880-1914) was accompanied by “booster” literature, democratic socialist experiments. In 1888, Lethbridge and Fort Macleod were venues for polygamy which “secures a husband for every woman that wants one, giving her a large stock to select from, and by division of labour, it also ensures better supervision and kinder treatment for the rising generation” (p. 147) From a commercial point of view, Mormon boycott of “gentile” stores. Of interest are the Doukhobor settlements in Thunder Hill, Swan River, and Yorkton; the appearance of alcoholic temperance and economic difficulties; the late nineteenth-century utopian visions of Ruskin, Bellamy, Hudson, and Morris. One may compare English with French, and, later manifestations in the Social Credit Movement.

In 7) the eligibility for homesteading was set forth in the Homestead Act of 1915 for Saskatchewan. Yet, it was not until 1979, that women finally secured an equal share in matrimonial property.” (p. 167) Evidently, some settlers were more equal than others; individual toil was not always a communal effort.

In Part III “Envisioning The Prairie West As A Perfect Society”, in 8) “Perfection by Architectural Design” reveals the Mormon colonies were buildings based on New England. These elements were: of private property versus common good; urban reform through urban design and civic planning, in conjunction with the Temperance Society.

Some of the relevant literature was: H.G. Wells, A Modern Utopia (1905); Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932); and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) on eugenics. Other notable figures are mentioned, such as J.S. Woodsworth and Thomas Mawson. Mawson was born in 1861. He designed campus plans for a University in Calgary, for example. Coming to Calgary, in April of 1912, he played a role in the City Planning Commission in Calgary which was newly formed to develop a plan for an “Ideal City”. (p. 182) The Mawson Plan of 1914, quoting Ruskin, was not implemented, due to cost, after the Edwardian Age’s spirit of optimism ended.

In 9) “Land of the Second Chance”, Nellie McClung’s Vision is accepted as “not a naively optimistic propagandist” (p. 199).

10) J.S. Woodsworth, of the CCF, is described as “an exemplary social gospeller”. In this context, the physical west and the social west are components of this ideal prairie land. He moved from the Methodist Church to social reform, believing that great economic wealth or the spirit of materialism would harm spiritual growth. The policy was for assimilation of problem “foreigners” as having potential, as Anglo-Protestants or part of the mosaic.

In 11) “The Utopianism Of The Alberta Farm Movement (1909-1923)”, we learn about Henry Wise Wood, the UFA’s President, the “Moses of Alberta”. There were small communes, the wheat pool; while on the frontier, we find religious, reform movements. At the outset, agrarian co-operatives replaced competition, by the United Farmers of Alberta, after the election of 1921, but were replaced by Social Credit, in 1935. They first experienced the failure of dry farming, in the 1930s, when it was feared that cities might spread like cancer, from a pastoral view.

In Part IV “A Promised Land For The ‘Chosen People’”, in 12) there was “No Place” for a woman, to cause gender tensions, since 1894-1996. The Gould v. Yukon Order of Pioneers case depicts Victorian gender type of a “manly” space, nation-building and wilderness “going”. “Typically, women were represented as existing outside of the masculine enterprise of settlement. When women do appear, it is more often as ‘civilizers’ or ‘gentle tamers’.” (p. 265) Some of the notables are: Ralph Connor, John Wilcox, Frances Simpson (wife of George Simpson), and the Foss-Pelly scandal. The arrival of European women was seen to disrupt peaceful relations and marital alliances between European men and Aboriginal women. (p. 268) By 1920, all three prairie provinces introduced a dower law. In 1925, a matrimonial property bill that anticipated joint ownership, followed a 1920 women’s resolution for equal custody and equal property rights for husband and wife. Of note are: The Farmers in Politics (p. 279) published in 1920. McNaughton wrote for The Western Producer.

In 13) “Preaching Purit”y was the function of the Anglican Bishop Lloyd (1861-1940), on Immigration being the creation of a perfect Anglo-Saxon community, which challenged the Railway and Immigration Policy.

In 14) the RCMP Policing of Communists and Ukrainians is examined. Some of the sources are: Pierre Berton and Jonathan Vance. There were many mistakes made, in dealing with the unassimilated or too radical, during the Inter-War period, with the Chinese Immigration Act and the opium trade. In 1930, 25,000 KKK in Saskatchewan, were equal in numbers to the United Grain Growers Association. “The fact that members of the KKK shared similar backgrounds to those in the RCMP meant that, from the perspective of the police, the KKK did not challenge Anglo-Canadian traditions and institutions to the same degree as the Communist Party of Canada did.” (p. 327)

In Section V: “Readjusting The Vision of The Promised Land in the Modern Era” about “A Promised Land for the ‘Chosen People’”, the editors would like to see the theme extended “to other groups such as Blacks, Asians, Jews or Arabs” (p. XVII)

Like the other contributors, the editors have impressive credentials. Francis, who contributed “The Kingdom of God on the Prairies: J.S. Woodsworth’s Vision of the Prairie West as Promised Land”, specializes in Canadian intellectual history and Western Canadian History. Kitzan, who contributed “Preaching Purity in the Promised Land: Bishop Lloyd and the Immigration Debate”, manages content creation for the Web Content and Services Division of the Library and Archives, Canada.

Anne Burke

History of the Book in Canada: Volume 3: 1918-1980

Review of History of the Book in Canada: Volume 3: 1918-1980, edited by Carole Gerson and Jacques Michon (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007) 611 pp. Indexed Cloth 0802090478 $85.

This is an essential resource for both public, school and university libraries, not only of this country, but internationally, because of its significance to scholars and general readers.

Under the banner of “Alberta”, we discover: “censorship”, “education”, “government support of the arts”, “libraries”, “literacy”, “mass-market distribution”, and “publishing.” Somewhat surprisingly, in 1946, Alberta became the first Canadian jurisdiction to respond to concerns about funding the arts through government sponsorship. When the Canadian Arts Council was established in 1945, this province set up a series of arts boards to support cultural activities, in 1946. (“High Culture Nationalism and the Missing Book”, in “The State and the Book”, by Paul Litt, p. 37).

Take note of one of the Case Studies, “Collecting Canadian Manuscripts at the University of Calgary, by Apollonia Steele, about the “special mission” to collect the papers of contemporary Canadian authors, following the landmark Canadian Conference of Writers and Critics. By 1980, the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the University of Calgary Library had become an internationally recognized research centre for Canadian literary and cultural studies. In the 1980s it would begin to publish detailed finding aids to specific collections in order to further facilitate research. (p. 114)

Under “prairies”, we uncover: “folklore”, “libraries”, “publishing”, and “study groups”. See also: “individual cities and provinces”; “Ukrainian (language)”. Fiona A. Black, who was an editor of Volume 2 of HBIC/HLIC, in “Prairie Publishing” (in “Trade And Regional Book Publishing In English”) we can learn more about Western Producer Prairie Books, founded by the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, in 1954; Peguis Publishers, Hurtig Publishing, and several others. “Alberta took over first place by 1978, as a result of Hurtig” (a notable project being The Canadian Encyclopedia, in 1980). Yet, W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen The Wind “has never been published in the Prairies.” (p. 185)

In “The West”, by Dominque Marquis, the story of French-language print culture and publishing in the Western provinces deals with Editons du Blé (and its additional reincarnations) asserting its own identity and “freedom” from Québec.

In Part Eleven, “Publishing And Communities”, the reader will enjoy: illustration 11.3 “The Canadian Small Press”, concept by David McKnight and graphic artist: Jennifer Garland (p. 309). As far as “controlling the means of production [which] has long been at the ideological centre of the small press movement”, Louis Dudek is the unacknowledged theoretician cum practitioner. Any serious study must undertake to deal with both the English-Language Small Press Publication and French literary presses and literary magazines, (”The Small Press in Quebec”), as well as those in both languages (after the 1960s).

The essay on “Small Press Publishing” is by David McKnight (a specialist in the area of “Electronic Text and Image”) who was a part-time lecturer at McGill University, before joining the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of an “Annotated Bibliography of English Canadian Little Magazines, 1940-1980” (a Masters thesis, Concordia University, 1992), in which this form is defined as: “the non-commercial production of books and periodicals with a literary orientation, issued in limited runs for specialized readerships, and often dedicated to experimental writing or identity-based perspectives.” (p. 310).

The Canadian small press movement, which began in the 1920s, is surveyed for the 1940s, and in the 1960s (TISH) but the prairies had to wait until the 1970s, when “Across the West, new presses were founded annually.” (p. 315). Some of the benchmarks are: in 1972, the creation of The Writing and Publishing Division of the Canada Council; in 1975, the founding of the Literary Press Group; then the rise of the Provincial arts councils, which made possible “a strong cross-country regional press network.” (p. 310)

In “Publishing by Women”, by Carole Gerson, (whose previous focus to which she will now return is on Canada’s early women writers) relies on Myrna Kostash, “The Feminist Press—Is Anyone Out There Listening?” Chatelaine, March 1975. Gerson notes: “In the absence of a reliable inventory of Canada’s feminist press, I have compiled a list of some fifty publications founded before 1980, drawn from numerous sources and all subsequently verified… a few from smaller cities, such as Edmonton (On Our Way, 1972-4; Branching Out, 1974-80, and Saskatoon (Prairie Women, 1979-81). Of a 1991 survey, which lists forty-four extant periodicals, more than half were founded after 1980. (notes 51 and 53, p. 545).

Between 1918 and 1980, there were “proportionally few[er] publications in which their participation was specifically identified at the level of the publisher’s imprint” (p. 319). With the franchise to vote, by 1919, and in Québec, in 1940, (first executed it in 1944), there were lingering vestiges of first-wave feminism, until the 1960s. “Whereas only a few new women’s periodicals appeared during the 1960s, the following decade saw at least fifty spring up across the country.” (p. 320) Some of the many hallmarks of second-wave feminism appear: in 1967, with the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, and in 1975, International Women’s Year. Some presses are mentioned in passing, with Press Gang, Ragweed/gynergy, and Eden Press.

This first edition is being marketed as the third and “final volume” of the series, with general editors Patricia Lockhart Fleming and Yvan Lamonde (the latter who edited Volumes 1 and 2). Francess G. Halpenny, who was the general editor of DCB/DBC, from 1969 to 1989, contributes “Scholarly and Reference Publishing”. Michael Peterman, known for his research in other areas, contributed “Sports Writing”. Peter Buitenhuis prepared a Case Study on “The CAA [Canadian Authors Association] and Propaganda during the Second World War.” Frank Davey offers “Economics and the Writer.” Catherine Owen, who has published eight collections of poetry, contributes a paper on “Allophone Authorship”. (“Allophone” refers to authors who write in languages other than French or English.)

Part One: “The Cultural Influence of Books And Print In Canadian Society” deals with 1) “The Book And The Nation”: with respect to “Imprinting the Nation in Words, Government Policy and Allophone Cultures”, “Native-Oral and Print Culture”, “The State and the Book”, “Book Policy in Quebec”, “Translating the Two Solitudes, Candianization of the Curriculum”, Case Studies of “Canadian Content in Primary Textbooks in Québec”, “Cohering through Books, Picturing Canada”, 2) “Symbolic Value Of Books”, “Books and Reading in Canadian Art”, “The Image of the Book in Advertising”, “Prize Books in Québec”, “Marshall McLuhan and the History of the Book”.

Part Two: “Authorship” deals with 3) “Authors’ Careers: Social and Cultural Profile of Writers”, “Allophone Authorship”, a Case Study of “The Canada Council for the Arts Writer-in-Residence Program”, “Celebrating Authorship: Prizes and Distinctions”, “Writers’ Networks and Associations”. 4) “The Author And The Market: “Writers and the Market for Fiction and Literature”, “Writers and the Market for Non-Fiction”, “Children’s Authors and Their Markets”, a Case Study of Leslie McFarlane and the Case of Pseudonymous Children’s Authorship”, “CBC Radio and Allophone Authors”, “Adaptations for Film and Television.”

Part Three: “Publishing For A Wide Readership” deals with: 5)” Trade And Regional Book Publishing In English”, “The Agency System and Branch-Plant Publishing”, “Trade and Regional Publishing in Central Canada”, “Atlantic Canada”, “Prairie Publishing”, a Case Study of “Harlequin Has Built an Empire”, “British Columbia and the North”, “Organization and Training among Book Publishers”, a Case Study: “From Tea Room to Top Floor: The Book Publishers’ Professional Association”, 6) “Publishing Books in French”, “Book Publishing in Québec”, a Case Study: “Les insolences du frère Untel / The Impertinences of Brother Anonymous”, “Ontario”, “Acadia”, “The West”, “Francophone Organizations in the Book Trade”, 7) “Publishing For Children and Students”, “Publishing for Children”, “The Rise and Fall of Textbook Publishing in English-Canada”, Case Study of “Coles Notes” and of McClelland and Stewart and the Quality paperback”, “Textbook Publishing in Quebec”, Case Study of “French-Canadian Classics from Fides”; 8) “The Serial Press”, “Major Trends in Canada’s Print Mass Media”, “Women’s Magazines”, and Case Studies of “Almanacs in French Canada”, of “Serial Pulp Fiction in Québec”, of “Canadian Pulp Magazines and Second World War Regulations’.

Part Four: “Publishing For Distinct Readerships” deals with 9) “Government and Corporate Publishing”, “Government as Author and Publisher”, a Case Study of “The Federal Government’s Advice to Mothers”, “The Publishing Activities of CBC / Radio Canada”, “CPR in Print”, 10) “Organized Religion And Print”, “The Religious Press in Quebec”, a Case Study of “The Magazine Relations”, “Catholic Publication and Distribution of Books in French”, a Case Study of “A Catholic Best-Seller”, “The Journal of Gérard Raymond”, “Print and Organized Religion in English Canada”, “Publishing for Young Christians”, 11) “Publishing And Communities”, “Publishing and Aboriginal Communities”, “Allophone Publishing”, “Jewish Print Culture”, a Case Study of “Free Lance, “Publishing Against the Grain”, 12) “Scholarly and Professional Publishing”, “Scholarly and Reference Publishing”, a Case Study of “R.E. Watter’s Check List of Canadian Literature”, “Scientific Periodicals”, “Legal Publishing”, “Medical Publishing.”

Part Five deals with: “Production”13) “Printing And Design”, “The Canadian Printing Industry”, a Case Studies of “Thèrien Frères”, of “From Humble Beginnings: Friesens Corporation”, of “Learning the Trade: The École des arts graphiques de Montréal, of The Livre d’artiste in Québec, of “The Alcuin Society”, of “Cartier: Canada’s First Typeface”, “Working in the Print Trades”, “The Graphic Arts in Québec”, “The Private Press”, “Book Design in English Canada”.

Part Six deals with: “Distribution” Systems of Distribution”, “International Sources of Supply”, “The World of Bookselling”, Case Studies: “The Book Room”, of “Librairie Tranquille”, “Control and Content in Mass Market Distribution”, “Book Clubs”, “Booksellers’ Organizations.”

Part Seven deals with: “Reaching Readers” 15) “Libraries”, “Government Libraries”, “The Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information”, “National Library of Canada”, “Bibliothèque nationale du Quebec”, “The Rise of the Public Library in English Canada”, “The Public Library in Quebec”, “Academic Libraries”, “Special Libraries”, “The Profession of Librarianship”, 16) “Reading Habits”, “Measuring Literacy”, “Surveying the Habit of Reading”, “Best-Sellers”, “Fan Mail from Readers”, “Autobiographies of Reading: L.M. Montgomery and Marcel Lavalle”, 17) “Controlling And Advising Readers”, “Government Censorship of Print”, “Religious Censorship in English Canada”, “From Censoring Print to Advising Readers in Québec”, “’Read Canadian’”, “Encouraging Children to Read”, 18) “Special Communities of Readers”, “Reaching Out to Isolated Readers”, Case Study of “Libraries On the Move”, of “Libraries on the Move”, of “Women’s Institute Libraries”, of “Wheat Pool Libraries”, “Reading on the ‘Rez’”, “Reading in Alternative Formats”, “Reading and Study Clubs”, Case Study of “Sociétié d’étude et de conferences.

Other features are the “General Editors’ Preface”, “Acknowledgments”, “History Of The Book In Canada / Histoire Du Livre Et De L’Imprimé Au Canada” (HBiC / HLIC) Advisory Board, (HBiC / HLIC) Editorial Committee, (HBiC/ HLIC) Editorial Team, (HBiC / HLIC) Volume 3 Team, Abbreviations and List of Illustrations. The collection ends with a “Coda”, by Gerson and Jacques Michon. They conclude:” Literary history used to be impossible to write; lately it has become much harder,” as an American critic quipped, in 1995. (See: Lawrence Lipking, “A Trout in the Milk,” in The Uses of Literary History, edited by Marshall Brown, 1-12. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.)

The Chronology situates events in general history with the evolution of the book industry Canada. There are many black-and-white Illustrations, Charts, Map, and Tables. Of the latter, information is provided about Members of the (SéC) Sociétés des écrivains canadiens and of the Union des écrivains québécois (UNéQ). a) “Not all members are covered in this compilation as 10 to 15 per cent do not appear in dictionaries and other reference sources that identify their output. As many authors work in more than one genre, the total percentages exceed 100”. The same proviso applies to members of the Writers Union of Canada (WUC), as compiled by Nancy Earle from The Writers’ Union of Canada Directory, (1981.) The “Selected Writers’ Organizations 1918-80” (with identification of organizations still in existence in 2005) will be helpful. “Labour in the Book Trades”, with divisions by sector, occupation, and gender, in the printing trades, in available for selected Canadian cities, 1921-1961, based on the Census records. To round about this compendium of literary history, there are: “End Notes”, “Sources Cited (Archival Sources, Published Sources), and “Contributors”.

Anne Burke

Editing Modernity: Women and Little-Magazine Cultures in Canada, 1916-1956

Review of Editing Modernity: Women and Little-Magazine Cultures in Canada, 1916-1956, by Dean Irvine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008) 320 pps. Cloth, End Notes, Works Cited, Indexed.

In a critical “Introduction”, the author compares a radical avant-gardism (often codified as “masculine”) and a mass culture often depicted as “sentimental, feminine and regressive.” He describes the “little” magazine as “a type of non-commercial literary, arts, or cultural-interest periodical.” He rejects Dudek’s “restrictive” definition, with its emphasis on the “literary” and the masculine.

Irvine offers an “eccentric” focus on women’s fugitive poems, short-lived magazines, and little-known print cultures; archives, marginalia, and ephemera; manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence, and other archival documents, as well as poems, letters, editorials, articles, reviews and advertisements.

Within international circles of modernism, women played a large role, among them were: Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson (Poetry); Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap (the Little Review); Marianne Moore (the Dial); Katherine Mansfield (Rhythm, the Blue Review, and the Signature); H.D. and Bryher (Close-up)

Irvine seeks to recover women editors who were not themselves poets (or primarily poets). In addition, he deals with women poets who were also editors of little magazines and/or members of little magazine groups. Thus, Canadian women magazine editors and poets represent a “doubly marginalized” group in relation to international literary cultures. Women have remained peripheral to historical narratives of the little magazine in Canada.

In Chapter 1, “Invitation to Silence: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, 1932-1937”, Irvine offers histories of the Cultural Left: “Among Masses: Livesay and Leftist Magazine Culture”; New Frontier’s Popular Front”; the “Left in Crisis”. On New Frontier’s staff, women were a majority, its founder Jean Watts, and two of the four editors (Dorothy Livesay and Margaret Gould).

In Chapter 2, “Marginal Modernisms: Victoria, Vancouver, Ottawa 1935-1953”, he surveys: “Canadian Poetry Magazine, (1936-63), the CAA, and Contemporary Verse”; “Modernism Our Enemy? Marriott and ‘Magazine Verse’”; “A People’s Modernism: Livesay’s Contemporary Verse”; and “After Contemporary Verse”. The periodical Contemporary Verse was founded by Livesay, Marriott, Doris Ferne, and Floris McLaren, and edited by Alan Crawley.

In Chapter 3, “Gendered Modernisms: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver 1941-1956”, he attempts to deal with: “Gender and Little-Magazine Cultures”; Page’s Preview (1942-5); “Waddington’s First Statement” (1942-5); “Page, Waddington, and Their Contemporary Verse” (1941-52) Female contributors to First Statement (including Page, Waddington, and Kay Smith) were subjected to gender-specific attacks.

In Chapter 4, “Editing Women: The Making of Little Magazine Cultures, 1916-1947”, he reports on the pre-Massey Commission: “Flora MacDonald Denison and the Sunset of Bon Echo” (1916-20); in the 1930s, “Feminism on the Left: Florence Custance and the Woman Worker” (1926-9); “Paper Kingdom in the Queen City: Mary Davidson and the Twentieth Century” (1932-3); Hilda and Laura Ridley of the Crucible (1932-43), “In the Making: The Ridleys and the Crucible”; “Taking Care of Business: Eleanor Godfrey and the Canadian Forum” (1935-47).

In Chapter 5, “Guardians of the Avant-garde: Modernism, Anti-Modernism, and the Massey Commission”, he considers “Commissioning the Avant-Garde”, with “Her Yellow Book: Catherine Harmon (with Paul Arthur) and here and now” (1947-9); “Making Her Impression: Myra Lazecho-Haas’s New Canadianism” (1950-1); “Art in Small Print: Yvonne Agazarian and pm magazine” (1951-2) ; “'Not a one man job': Aileen Collins and CIV/n” (1953-5); “A People’s Culture: Margaret Fairley and New Frontiers (1952-6).

In the Conclusion, we find “In Transition”; “A Putting Down of Roots’: Livesay and CV/II”; “1957 and After” Of course, the Canadian feminist literary periodicals of the 1970ss and 1980s are fundamentally different, with a radical shift after 1957. There is a sharp decline in the number of women editing little magazines, after 1957.

Of note is the fact that New Frontier (1936-7) was published in the 1930s and New Frontiers (1952-6) was published in the 1950s.

According to Irvine, who has unlocked our literary history, at least as it pertains to women little magazine publishers, “Chief among the stumbling blocks encountered by women little-magazine editors were the economic obstacles related to the cost of magazine production and distribution, which usually signaled the end of a given magazine’s existence.”

Economic difficulties persisted, when either private funds or public grants marked (and ensured?) continued funding for non-commercial magazines, after 1957.

Some important sources Irvine mentions are: Norman Levine, “We All Begin in a Little Magazine,” Thin Ice (Ottawa: Deneau and Greenberg, 1979, pp. 38-47); The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada: Essential Articles on Contemporary Canadian Poetry in English, by Louis Dudek and Michael Gnarowski (Toronto: Ryerson, 1967), a seminal resource which contains “The Role of Little Magazines in Canada”, (pp. 205-12); Frederick Hoffman, Charles Allen, and Carolyn F. Ulrich’s The Little Magazine A History and a Bibliography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946); Mark S. Morrisson, The Public Face of Modernism: Little Magazines, Audiences, and Reception, 1905-1920 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001)

There has been a project of exposing “masculinist” editorial practices and recovering histories of women’s editorial labour in the context of little magazines. It is a fact that women little-magazine editors have fared “poorly” in Canadian literary history. Of particular note, P.K. Page, Dorothy Livesay, Anne Marriott and Miriam Waddington, in their dual roles, enjoyed long careers as poets. In addition, they responded to and recovered from the “poetic crises” of their little-magazine years in different ways. Women poets who contributed to leftist and modernist little magazines have, of course, fared “much better” in literary history than those who did not. A problem is the “scarcity” of archival documents related to women little-magazine editors. Another is their uncollected poetry.

Irvine relies on Jayne E. Marek’s Women Editing Modernism: “Little” Magazines and Literary History (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1995). He concludes, from David McKnight’s bibliography, of those little magazines founded between 1941 and 1956, 11 of 23 (47 percent) had at least one woman editor; for those little magazines established between 1957 and 1980), the ratio decreases to 65 of 177 (36 percent). He deals, to some extent, with the “transition” of magazines, from little magazines founded and/or edited by women in Canada, to the feminist literary magazine. Another fact is that, after 1957, as the number of little magazines in Canada increased dramatically, the percentage of women editors affiliated with these magazines actually dropped (based on both funded and unfunded magazines.)

Hence, the pre-decade remains one of the “most productive” periods for women editors of Canadian little magazines. Then, editors of feminist literary magazines took collective action “during a period of men’s ascendancy– if only in number– in Canadian little-magazine culture”, after 1957. There needs to be a history of Canadian little magazines in the 1970s and 80s. Women were writing “for women”. Livesay’s CV/II, founded in 1975, was a literary magazine edited by a woman and soliciting women’s writing (but, not yet, a feminist literary magazine). See: CV2’s transition, from Livesay’s editorship (1975-7) to its first women’s editorial collective (1984- ). Irvine compares the historical connections between the feminist literary magazine and the little magazines founded and/or edited by women in Canada.

Regarding to: the continuation of literary, arts and cultural magazines, from the pre-Council era, only Quarry was “ever edited” by a woman, though not “until Gail Fox took over the editorship in 1976”; she was succeeded by Bronwen Wallace (1978-81.)

Irvine thanks P.K. Page for answering his queries, in conversation and in a letter (9 August 2000), about her roles in the physical production of Preview. Of a predecessor to Preview, “Peggy had typed it…and [Anderson] wrote the content and ran off copies”, (in note 2, p. 287). Anderson remarks, in a 1945 letter to A.J. M. Smith, “I feel quite bitter about Preview's attitude to Peggy. She spent hours and hours mimeographing the magazine carrying paper etc. and actually called most of the meetings. She never got a word of thanks.”(note 4, p. 287.) Page was critical of Contemporary Verse in Preview, but, in a letter to Alan Crawley, she offered a “private retraction”. Her letter of resignation, to John Sutherland, from Northern Review, was published in the October-November 1947 issue. (note 26, p. 291-2) Her comment, in a September, 1949 letter to Sybil Hutchison, observes, ironically, of “The 'little magazines.’ Nothing in the world could sound more pitiful to the uninitiated than that term.” (p. viii)

In “Works Cited”, there are “Archival Sources” and “Published and Other Sources”. A shorter version of Chapter 10 “Among Masses: Dorothy Livesay and English Canadian Leftist Magazine Culture of the Early 1930s” appeared in the “Materializing Canada Issue” of Essays on Canadian Writing 68 (1999), pp. 183-212. A longer version of the second section of the conclusion appeared in the Dorothy Livesay special issue “Dorothy Livesay’s Perspectives, Retrospectives, and Prospectives: ‘A Putting Down of Roots’ in CVII,’” Contemporary Verse 2, 21.3 (1999), pp. 65-78.

This is a volume in the Studies in Book and Print Culture, Series Editor: Leslie Howsam. Irvine, an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Dalhousie University, is also the author of The Canadian Modernists Meet (University of Ottawa Press, 2005) in their Reappraisals: Canadian Writers Series.

Another title in the Studies in Book and Print Culture is New Canadian Library: The Ross-McClelland Years, 1952-1978, by Janet B. Friskney, (University of Toronto Press, 2007). An Appendix with “New Canadian Library Titles, 1958-1978” is provided. Appendix B covers copies of “NCL Titles Sold Annually, 1958-1979”. As well, Appendix C has “Titles Proposed but Not Included in the NCL to 1978”. A complementary text is “Publishing by Women”, by Carole Gerson, “Publishing For Distinct Readerships: Publishing And Communities”, in History of The Book In Canada, Volume Three, 1918-1980 (University of Toronto Press, 2007, pp. 318- 322). While women participated in the material production of print, from 1918-1980, they were proportionally fewer as identified by imprint. Those who were visible, did so in relation to woman-specific topics or though books for children. Much “rarer” has been the woman-controlled publishing house. In general terms, publishing books was more stable than periodicals. There is Table 13.1 “Labour in the Book Trade: Divisions by Sector, Occupation, and Gender in the Printing Trades in Selected Canadian Cities, 1921-1961” (pp. 364-5) to reinforce this inevitable conclusion.

Irvine does not deal with the “menial” jobs women undertook, not always acknowledged in the masthead; most of the non-editorial tasks were clerical in nature, although he admits these too have been marginalized as female-gendered labour in the masculinist little-magazine historiography.

When I taught a course in Canadian Literature while a post-graduate student at the University of Ottawa, in the 1970s, our text was Canadian Anthology, Selected and edited by Carl F. Klinck and Reginald E. Watters (Toronto, Gage Educational Publishing Limited). Klinck was the editor of the Literary History of Canada and Watters compiled A Checklist of Canadian Literature. While the majority of authors represented in the course survey were males, which nobody questioned, when I taught contemporary authors, Margaret Atwood, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro, I was asked why there were more women than male authors on the book-titles prospectus. My reply was that I was surprised at being asked why there were more books by females listed, because it was not a conscious choice. Rather, the predominant contemporary fiction writers just happened to be women.

The same complaint was received when I published the first issue of The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, (Fall 1983). I had selected submissions by Dorothy Speak, “Crinolines”; Ann Knight, “Roadsongs”; Genni Gunn, “The Writer” and “The Artist”; Ilona Marchaelle, “Promises, Promises” and “Happy Anniversary”; Pat Allan, “Death— Then & Now”; and Jean E. Veevers, “Prairie Born”. There were reviews of The Moment Is All: Selected Poems 1944-83, by Ralph Gustafson; Dig Up My Heart: Selected Poems 1952-83, by Milton Acorn, and Just Off Main, by Gary Hyland. However, the contributors (myself included) were female and it was cause for complaint.

I marginally attended the League annual general meeting in Saskatoon. I was “with child” and/or the child was with me, so I was constantly interrupted, by another biological imperative. When I truly came “into” the League of Canadian Poets, (or they came into me) it was attendance at the 1987 “Illegitimate Positions: Women & Language” panel, an experience that opened doors for me. It was presented May 8, 1987, at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. The Feminist Caucus, with Cathy Ford, Sue McMaster, Erin Mouré, Penn Kemp, Patience Wheatley, Neile Graham, and others welcomed me. The Living Archives Series became my life-line, when I transcribed their enlightening observations from an oral tape recording. The Caucus Committee Chairs have come and gone. I volunteered (or was volunteered) to serve as Chair. Needless to add, I have stayed. I have contributed to four chapbook panels, on Memory, on Reviews, on Belles Lettres, and another on Erotics. With the anticipated acquisition of the Feminist Caucus papers, in 2009, by the National Archives in Ottawa, at least this portion of literary history will reap rewards for future scholars.

Anne Burke

Tiny, Frantic, Stronger & Why Are You So Long and Sweet?: Collected Poems of David W. McFadden

Reviews of Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, by Jeff Latosik (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2010) paper $11.95 &Why Are You So Long and Sweet?: Collected Poems of David W. McFadden, “Introduction” and edited by Stuart Ross (London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2010) paper $19.95.

For a first book, “No refunds” are herein requested or received. Movie images are ribbonned throughout this collection: Freddy Krueger, the plotlines, (“Tiny Theatres”); stories in demo home theatres, and old B movies. There are organic images, of vines adapted to subways and vascular leaves, flower petals, and even a cactus. Mountains look like Braille. The poet compares 27 bones with 27 billboards. There are a few dead branches. People are dolphins like goldfish or sharks. In friendship lies electricity. So, too: song and space exploration; the history of fire; toys. Tomorrow is like a valid point, a rumour of gold, Cockroaches and silverfish, centipedes.

Youths appear in parks, with textbooks; on a camping trip, and in school health classes. They enter onto the landscape, swimming on a school trips, or returning in ambulances.

An underlying pattern presents itself. Pieces of buildings “divorce each other many times”, like an estranged couple. Self-improvement matters. Cars come and go.

Note the incremental repetition of “A theory goes/floats” (“How the Tiktaalik Came onto Land”)

This combines with a sense of abandonment, because “here are your keys”. The newer models, not yet conceived, have no errors reported. (“Collapsible Range”) A police car idles.

Two other poems preoccupied with vehicles deal with the fake/real dichotomy (“The Rise and Fall of the Station Wagon”) and imagining the hypothetical:

all the doors you abandoned in scrap yards
wobbled into their original hinges.
As if misfortune drove a 1956 Buick convertible

into a wall of its misfortune

(“Misfortune Drove a 1956 Buick Convertible”, p. 56)

Latosik won the P.K. Page Founders Award from The Malahat Review, in 2007, placed first in THIS Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt, in 2008, and was a finalist for the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award, for 2008. He reaches at Humber College in Toronto.

Latosik points out that his poem “I’ll Climb the Tree If You Climb the Tree”, originally a centero, was inspired by a poem by Dave McFadden “that I can no longer find.” (p. 77).

According to Ross, this book is a companion volume to Why Are You So Sad? Selected Poems of David W. Fadden (Insomniac Press, 2007).  Four long poems were collected in the earlier book which was shortlisted for the 2008 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize in 2008.  As such, it does not compare revised texts but does contain a newly discovered poem and a never-before-collected poem from 1961. The edition contains a Bibliography.

The introductory work “The Poem Poem” is a long poem, autonomic writing, and a pastiche of observations (compiled from December 28, 1966 to February 20, 1967.) Coleridge claimed that long poems have some parts which are more poetic than others. McFadden enjoys

Coleridge’s shameful lusting
fat little man chasing around
after travel books.
A picture of my poem
chasing after a hundred Coleridges.

(p. 43)

McFadden takes this on, the locus of his poetics in Hemingway, Browning, and Poe. The persona of the poet is of a being who can claim an affair resulting in “my pregnancy” because “’Fools have big wombs’” according to William Carlos Williams.

He makes full use of the page, text as well as pause, scanning/spamming/spanning spaces.

My body.    The absolute poem
is flesh.     Soon I’ll be

(p. 47)

The second section “The Ova Yogas”, another bi-or-transgendered approach is subtitled, “Being a series of poems/written in one long/strange afternoon.” (p. 49) In rhythmic beats per line and angles, the human stones of Easter Island are transmuted to “My personal Grand Canyon”, while elsewhere inserting snippets of phonetically-correct language or dispensing altogether with vowels.

The third section “The Poet’s Progress” is a contemporary take on classical models, for instance, Juvenal, and his Tenth Satire, On the Vanity of Human Wishes, and John Bunyan, in his Pilgrim’s Progress, with allusions to R.H. Blyth and Eugen Herrigel and dedicated to “the poets of the 21st century/and the women at No. 9.” Beginning with the maxim “You can’t go home again”, the method is both inclusive and collective, with reference to the weekend crossword puzzle, and contemplations on the function of the poet:

and the paper is as white
as a window into heaven

(p. 71)

The poet is a token
of the world’s magic


(p. 72)

Inspiration occurs when

the lips part and another line pops out

(p. 75)

because composition is effortless and seemingly endless. He acknowledges arrogance but defends himself as unable to understand the cosmos, a common condition among us.

His playing solitaire is reminiscent of “On Betting Too much in a Friendly Game of Cards”, by Latosik, in Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, (p. 69). Latosik includes an epigraph from the first section of Song of Roland. Both poets rely on song, for example, “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, for McFadden, who compares paranoia with erotomania. Both employ the motif of the garden, Biblical, postlapsarian, ripening. Domestic disputes result in writer’s block, on occasion, with anecdotal evidence. Dennis Cooley has done some academic study of the long poem on the prairies but Toronto poet McFadden indulges in “that list of complaints” (p. 101), what men endure, from and on account of their wives, facing their own problems of ageing and the sting of mortality.

And the mind is becoming
more and more
like the chair there
steadfast as a star
radiant as a chair
or at least
the chair there.

I am where I am.

I am chair, I am.

These philosophical meanderings are surprisingly affective and effective outcomes, of which he concludes:

While I slept I thought
about this poem and developed
a marvelous end technique
that not only resolved this piece
but resolved problems I’ve been
trying to vocalize all my life
and I knew that finally
everyone would understand me

even Doug, Gerry, Vic D’Or
and the women at No. 9.

(p. 105)

Compare section XXII of McFadden’s “The Poet’s Progress”, about:

When the dentist left the room
my hand went up his nurse’s skirt.

(p. 106)

with “Plea to a Dentist for More Freezing” (Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, p. 45) The ultimate problem wife (“The Thought Box: after Ted Hughes, by Latosik, p. 75) Their verbal dexterity is classic, as expressed by Latosik,

A crowd of someone else’s details
gathering around you, becoming your details,
growing inside you like a vine,
growing like times of confusion.

(“Something Inside That Grows Like a Vine, p. 35)

McFadden extends to but is not limited by lapses into amnesia. McFadden confesses to the fact “there are colours I cannot name” and “I can’t describe the tie” (p. 910)He cannot identify previously familiar paintings which hang on the wall (p. 83) He cannot remember the tree before today, strange” (p. 81)

While Latosik ponders VOMIT, McFadden struggles with indigestible food, before regaining his appetite.

I’ve tried to be honest and sincere
as well as dishonest and insincere

and my appetite has returned.

(p. 107)

The next section “I Don’t Know” arises from Emperor Wu of Liange and a response by Bodhidharma. This long poem combines the Calgary Stampede with ancient Franks and Druids, as well as “the occasional Abyssinian maid” (p. 111) with a Biblical turn of phrase,

For it does not befit a man
to worry overmuch about his verse.

(p. 13)

His interview on community television takes on epic proportions, because

for TV is to me as writing
was to Homer, a new technology
not to be trusted

(p. 126)

In the next section “Night of Endless Radiance”, he culls Sappho, the Great Lakes, Hiroshima, a mermaid, A.Y. Jackson, and a lengthy meditation on Night. The role of the Dreamer in Romance Literature is to unleash the subconscious, permitting the free-flow of thoughts, images and ideas, unimpeded by the conscious or daytime mind.

In “A New Romance”, McFadden makes it possible for the stand-up comedian to be replaced by the poet on stage. It is “The Family of words” that entices the poet “on his invisible/pony” (p. 157) He opines on the whole poetic race, and “Small words floated down.” (p. 164) His sense of humour can hardly be unintentional, despite his claims, when he exclaims,

Oh for a mind as pure and neat
as a fresh box of Keenex or a roll
of Scotch tape or a hot roll

(p. 167)

A speaker must be effortless, just as a poet can or ought to be. 

McFadden explores

the new romance will move around you
as water moves around each little fish

(p. 175)

an ineluctable description, glimpsed as goldfish and shark, in Tiny, Frantic, Stronger, by Latosik. 

While reading McFadden, I am reminded of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, with the enormity and breadth of the poet’s vision, extolling what mankind can attain, if only we embrace the cosmos.

and as the poet sweeps he eagerly
awaits the arrival
of the lover, and laughs
at his own arousal—
the sun and moon laugh too.

(p. 176)

In the next section “Country of the Open Heart”, McFadden alludes to Catallus, Venus and Adonis, in the same context as a giant tapeworm forming a cave in the centre of the brain (pp. 180-1) The mock heroic epitaph reduces “The entire Pacific Ocean” to “a Spanish onion”. (p. 183) He refers to “Empty Lives passing through your Open Heart?” (p. 184)

 In “The Cow That Swam Lake Ontario”, the poet writes as her coach, likening the bovine to Marilyn Bell who swan Lake Ontario.

and as you can imagine I’m really tired,
although not as tired as that cow must have been
after its great escape from the camp of death.

(p. 207)

In “Nevada Standstill”, the poet begins with Virgina Woolf’s diaries and comments about her novel Night and Day, Marcel Proust, and how a poet requires a nom de plume. He adds, “I am Nevada and when I try to stand still/no matter how hard I try I notice I’m not.” (p. 221)

In “Cow Swims Lake Ontario, Or, The Case of the Waterloggd Quadruped”, the poet writes “for unhappy people everywhere.” The poem is from the point of view of the cow.

In “Danny Quebec”, he offers “Grace to Jehovah and Heavenly Hosts.”

Anne Burke

Minetown, Milltown, Railtown: Life in Canadian Communities of Single Industry

Review of Minetown, Milltown, Railtown: Life in Canadian Communities of Single Industry, by Rex A. Lucas, introduction by Lorne Tepperman (Oxford University Press, 2008) 406 pp., paper $26.95, endnotes, Indexed.

First published in 1971, this inaugural study deserves to be updated by contemporary social scientists.

Three detailed community studies were done, with the social characteristics detailed. In each study, intensive interviews were carried out, with a random sample of the population in the case of Minetown and representative samples in the cases of Railtown and Milltown. Figure 1 is a representation of the occupational order of railtown. Table 1 charts Medical services by size of community, 1968. Table 2 offers Point of contact used by urban companies in the recruitment of new young employees.

The study is dedicated to Carl Addington (1887-1964) and introduced by Lorne Tepperman, who chooses to present Lucas as: “poor and homosexual in a single-industry town”, likening the result of his research to a prize-winning novel.

Lucas admits the literature on Canadian communities of single industry is “uneven”, and this factor alone justifies the inclusion of his seminal study in the Wynford series of titles representing significant milestones in Canadian literature, thought, and scholarship.

The Introduction offers a survey of reviews, including John Porter, Canadian Historical Review, the John Porter of The Vertical Mosaic (Toronto, 1965) labeled as “perhaps Canada’s pre-eminent sociologist of the era”, but who has since come under criticism for flaws in his research technique.

Lucas defines “urban” and “urbanization”, dealing with types of small communities, based on a population of 30,000, or less. He then proceeds through:  “Stage I Construction of the Community”; “II The Recruitment of Citizens”; “III Transition”; and “Stage IV Maturity”. Lucas summarizes: “The Organization of Work”; “Occupation, Stratification, and Association”; “Interpersonal Relationships”; “Recreation; Goods and Services”; “Healing Arts”; “The School”; “Churches”; “Social Conflict and Social Control”; “Marriage and Migration of Youth”; concluding with “Some Social Implications”.

Of the latter, Lucas examines: “The One-Industry Community in Canada”, “The Universality of Communities of Single Industry”, “Isolation”; “Single Industry”, “Fishing, Farming and Commercial Communities”; “The Community of Dominant Industry”, “Community Size”, “Personal Relationships”; “Community Services”, “The Community of Single Industry and Canada”. 

This edition is rounded out, with a map of approximate locations of the Communities studied in this book; Notes on Data and Sources, (such as published and unpublished studies, magazine and newspaper articles, census, directory, and statistical material), as well as a Name Index, and  a Subject Index.

Anne Burke

for And against & The Glassblowers

Reviews of for And against, by Sharon McCartney (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2010) 76 pp. paper $17.95 &The Glassblowers, by George Sipos (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2010) 103 pp. paper $17.95.

This new collection for And Against contains 63 lyric poems.  Based on the titles, there are seven “For” poems and 21 “Against”; only “For (Against) Judith” contains both.

In the opening prose poem, the persona of the poet, like T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock, measures her life out in coffee spoons. Her husband is a stranger to her, their divorce imminent; their trajectories never meet (“Against Parallelism”, p. 32) and yet they must embrace a world “without parallel”) within which she celebrates her own asymmetry.

Their dog/cat analogous relationship recurs, for example, washing the dog after it was sprayed (“Against Skunks”, p. 53) is a not so subtle reference to her disavowal of marriage. Her mother’s fate was decided by the time she was twenty, “Against Form (Lake Huron)”; she was a people pleaser at 60 (“Against Skinny-Dipping)”. As a girl, the poet was forced to wear “the cropped dresses” (“Against All That”, p. 45)

With the passage of seasons, humanity is stockpiling petty resentment. Whether they are war and revolution, or class warfare, she suffers from fevers, pain, and aches; scars anger and self-blame. In parsing the word “yield”, she seeks to dull the pain with alcohol, or with other reverie-addicts. Note the figurative language, of “an eight-foot Shiva of snow” (p. 17), and a golden congelation (“Risotto” p. 38). Their relationships appear as if they are: “stitching our ragged dehiscence into an uneven seam” (“After Roncevalles”, p. 48)

Coyotes are bush rats, crows rant, and she communes with the horses (“Mrs. Oliver Mellors”.) In “the hegemonic ordinariness of morning”, lovemaking becomes “your unsanitized cells in mine, organic, meiotic, benign.” (“Against Sanitation”, p. 16) These “post-coital attitudes” (p. 18) are quite simply part of a moribund marriage (“Through”, p. 20). As wild animals engage in savage sex (p. 26), domestic bliss was replaced by domestic hell, (“Sixteen Years Ago”); to become a divorce-of-the-month club (“Tsunami, Earthquake, Hurricane”.) She alludes to ex-sex (“And Now the Looting Begins,” p. 52)

The hospital provides the setting for opiate birthing, morphine-induced confusion, (“How They Died”, p. 18.) She indulges in an elaboration on The Wizard of Oz, (“Dorothy”, p. 38); imagining Anna Karena (“Refuse ((Against Tolstoy))”), and “Snow White”; from the point of view of historical figures, such as Marie Antoinette and Lady Ashley.

The poems yield local colour, Lansdowne and Beaverbrook; Algonquin, Adirondack; and Niagara rocks are brought down by “failure, rejection, divorce” (“Cataract”, p. 32) One poem personifies an ATM.

McCartney has a Masters of Fine Art in poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a degree in law from the University of Victoria. She works as a legal editor and is Poetry Editor for The Fiddlehead. This new title follows Against (Frog Hollow Press, 2007); The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder(Nightwood Editions, 2007); Switchgrass Stills (littlefishcartpress, 2006); Karenin Sings the Blues, (Goose Lane Editions, 2003), and Under the Abdominal Wall (Anvil Press, 1999).

There are fifty-five poems in The Glassblowers, a second book for Sipos, following Anything but the Moon, which was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Award of Poetry.

This refined language and rarified atmosphere offers a healing local landscape, “Think how seeds exhaust themselves into grain/their recurring language burdened, as you are/each line entwined with the sound of a voice, /a tractor, /someone you have forgotten.” (“Interlinear”, p. 66)

The title poem, based in Biblical sources, describes a factory which is subsequently revealed to be a metaphor for vision,

the dark solidity of the world seen through glass,
everything visible damned and blessed
into light.

(p. 23)

In Section One “Earthlight meantime”, Cain’s murder of his brother Abel is set in the Edenic garden (“Lilacs”, p. 13). There is an escalator or moving floor of fields, waves, leaves, and scent (“Montford Field”, p. 15) His poems never “slip into clichés: skid, drive into ditches” (“Zodiac”, p. 16) The god Orion appears in the Great Nebula, (“Lunar Eclipse”); Bruce Cockburn on the radio while he is at Two Mile Flat (“Speechless”)

Atlantis is sighted (“The Astronomers”) but Zodiac refers to the Coast Guard. Light is indistinct, “something casual like that/the sea sloughs off.” (“Sometimes the light”, p. 21)

The firmament inscribes and transcribes itself onto our bodies (“Cloud Chamber”). Without malice, nature is trusting, even the sheep on whose wool” the dew of pre-dawn/no longer/ripple[s] their wool like sand.  Only the poet is capable of expressing nature’s deep reserves, spring/sprung into language, and preserves the transitory.

In Section Two “Metasequoia”, the poet situates us in time and place, Hubei Province, 1941, (“Dawn Redwood”), or aboard a ship, sailing north/up Trincomaki Channel at 3:00 a.m. (“Freighter”, p. 30). juxtaposing Guy Lombardo with Jumbo, a circus and roadbed which lead nowhere (“L& PS Railway”, p. 33) He is attuned to harbour (“Sooke Harbour”), because he does not live near it; even the cows have nowhere to go. (“Parle-moi”). Swans outclass ordinary birds (“Platonic”).

In Section Three, “The minor key of the dominant”, violence erupts when a man’s coffee grows cold (“Somewhere in the city”, p. 39) He enjoins in “Sonata Form” with Buddhist contemplations of birds/day/night.  He identifies with exile (“Trotsky”) He satirizes women who are Pro-Life, because they are “happy” making fudge. The ironies abound, post-childbearing women protesting abortion, wearing their spatulas like surgeons. (“Pro-Life at the Ex”, p. 44) Interacting with and Reacting to nature, with a retriever (“12 Gauge”), and a horse (“Sarabande”, p. 51); a forest transformed (“After the Storm”), the first//also the last” (“CERN”, p. 50). 

Human relations are displayed in Section Four “Willie Loves Lucy”, referencing a tree which was branded with their linked names, in 1974; using frog songs, exhausted (“interlinear”) and Belgian mares  (“Here, by the gate”); with similes, “like snapdragons, like helium”, p. 58)  Sea and sky merge into past relations, “you and I—a squall-line” (“Squall-line”, p. 62) hiking green mountains near the Pacific (“Mt. McBride”, p. 63) the tide returns, (“Midden”, p. 64)  The landscape becomes an extended ghazal, with Persian poetry and imbued with nostalgia

Like McCartney, he alludes to the nectar of the gods being coffee, but a goddess/waitresses serves him, and, “as she poured the coffee black into the white,” she simultaneously fills up the/his void of the morning, you might say.” (“Sibyl”, p. 67) and section “Five” is devoted to “Coffee and steamed milk”, as a kind of seamanship (“Inga”); by which the sea “is ruffled with goosebumps” (“Arbutua, South Shore”, p. 76) A man plays “the cello:/life, a woman” (“arco/pizz”, p. 72); chumming with Iris Murdoch or Jeanne Moreau. (“On s’est perdus de vue”, p. 74) With an incantatory choral, he produced an ode:

To those whose work is such syntax—
the cats by which the day begins,
the acts by which all days begin: coffee
and steamed milk, china cups,
little oblongs of sugar wrapped in paper.

(“Acknowledgments”, p. 77)

Sipos is Executive Director of ArtSpring, a visual and performing Arts Centre. He owned and managed Mosquito Books, managed the Prince George Symphony, and taught English at the University of Northern British Columbia.

Anne Burke

Medicine And Duty: The World War I Memoir of Captain Harold W. McGill, Medical Officer, 31st Battalion C.E.F.

Review of Medicine And Duty: The World War I Memoir of Captain Harold W. McGill, Medical Officer, 31st  Battalion C.E.F., edited by Marjorie Barron Norris (University of Calgary Press, 2007) 382 pp. paper ISBN 1-55238-193-5  978-1-55238-193-9 $39.95 Indexed.

This is a literate, readable account of day-to-day events, based on first-hand diary entries. The working title of the first draft was “Reminiscences Of A Battalion M.O.” There is a photograph of the Officers Of the 31st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force At Calgary, Alberta, dated February 1915. From one of the original passenger lists still in McGill’s possession, he offers a list of the officers on board the Carpathia, “the ship that had rescued the survivors of the Titanic disaster a few years before.” (p. 49) Each of the twenty-four chapters is prefaced by quotations from Shakespeare: King Henry IV, part II, and Act V, Scene V, Introduction; King John, Act IV, Scene III, Act V, Scene I, Macbeth, Act V, Scene IV,  Scene VI; King Henry V, Act II, Prologue, Act III, Scene V; King Henry V, Act II, Prologue; King Henry VI, Part I, Act III, Scene III, Part II, Act II, Scene IV, Part III, Act II, Scene V; Troilus and Cressida, Act IV, Scene V; Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene III; Anthony and Cleopatra, Act IV, Scene III; King Lear, Act III, Scene IV. In addition, there are other sources: Brete Harte, The Reville;  William Cullen Bryant, The Death of the Flowers; Edward Fitzgerald, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam; Southey, The Battle of Blenheim; James Thomson, The Seasons; and John McRae, The Anxious Dead.

McGill (1880-1961) wrote: “We have heard a lot since of our boys going to war to end war for all time to come. Personally I was never actuated by any such abstract idea, and I doubt very much if the idea ever occurred to a single one of the thousands who enlisted during the early months of the war… Later, some of them may have thought that they had joined the colours on account of the ‘abolish war’ idea because of the appealing nature of the ideal; but, as I have said, I have the strongest doubt that a single solider ever enlisted from this motive.” (pp. 9-10).

McGill served as President of the Calgary Medical Society, the Calgary member of the Council of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and was one of the Alberta members on the Medical Council of Canada. In 1926, he was elected to the Calgary City Council, where he served two terms. In 1930, he became a Member of the Legislative Assembly.

According to the “Editor’s Introduction”, McGill was Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs for Canada (1932-1938). Following the amalgamation of the Department of Indian Affairs…, McGill became Director of Indian Affairs until his retirement in 1945. (p. xiii) In the “Epilogue”, Premier R.B. Bennett, in 1932[?], appointed McGill Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. “The Superintendence of Indian Affairs for Canada was a powerful position comparable to that of deputy minister. He held that office for twelve years, until his retirement at age sixty-five.” (p.343)

McGill met and married a Calgary nurse Emma Griffis. There is a photograph of her outside The Calgary General Hospital (p. 302). Their honeymoon was during the time-frame of the Battle of Arras. The onset of the great Spanish Flu pandemic was in 1918. Emma was unable to find work “due to a debilitating bout of influenza” but they shared a holiday in 1919. They had two daughters, Kathleen and Doris. Emma was a member of the Women’s Canadian Club and the Women’s Conservative Association.

McGill belonged to the 103rd Regiment Calgary Rifles, when the war began; in 1914, he was thirty-four years of age. He returned from the war in 1919. The present memoir deals with his service to the Alberta 31st Battalion, from its barracks at the Calgary Exhibition Grounds, to the Second Battle of Loos; the Battle of Sanctuary Wood; the Battle of the Somme; and Vimy Ridge (the Canadian Army’s taking of the Ridge, in 1917). Then he was transferred to the 5th Field Ambulance, before Passchendale; the Battle of Amiens; and the Last Hundred Days.

A “Foreword”, by Patrick H. Brennan, Centre for Military and Strategic Studies, contains suggestions for future reading, whether scholarly or front-line accounts by the participants. McGill’s is not “the best recollection of the war by an ordinary Canadian soldier”, an honour which Brennan accords to The Journal of Private Fraser: 1914-1918, edited by Reginald H. Roy. However, McGill’s memoir “effectively complements [it]. (notes 1 and 2, p. vii)

This is the first publication of the memoir, albeit heavily edited (or at least condensed and abbreviated), with generous footnotes. The Glenbow Archives contains McGill letters (1915-1919). Some of them have been reproduced here. In McGill’s “Letter to Frances McGill” (his sister who was also a doctor) dated 10 October 1915, he commented on the Tour of Duty (pp.95-97). There is a copy of a handwritten letter from McGill to Emma Griffis, (15 April 1916), in which he described The Battle of St. Eloi. (pp. 158-160). In McGill to Emma Griffis, dated 5 February 1916, “Harold Answered Emma’s Queries Relating To Trench Duty And Army Rations, And Gave News Of Mutual Acquaintances Now Overseas” (pp. 132-137). Another letter (12 December, 1918), was sent to Harold McGill, from Ben Jones’ Brother Thomas Llewellyn Jones (pp. 213-216). There is A Letter from McGill to Birdie Stacey dated 13 April 191), (pp. 273-275).  McGill wrote to Emma Griffis, on 12 July 1917, “At 11.20 p.m. Harold Penned His First ‘Love Letter’ To Emma” (pp. 305-307).

Norris, a writer and historian who lives in Calgary, is the author of A Leaven of Ladies: A History of the Calgary Local Council of Women and Sister Heroines: The Roseate Glow of Wartime Nursing, 1914-1918. Janice Dickin is the series editor for the Legacies Shared Series, of which this title is number 23. The avowed purpose is to create, save, and publish voices from the heartland of the continent that might otherwise be lost to the public discourse.

In addition to the Epilogue, the text contains maps; illustrations; some black-and-white photographs. There are “McGill’s Summary Of  Casualties In The Two September Actions” (September 15 and September 26) (p. 228); a checklist of “our casualties during the main action of Vimy Ridge, April 9 and 10 (p. 281). By May 13, McGill records casualties again (p. 286). An appendix of  “31st Battalion Casualties [from November 14, 1914] To November 11, 1918” is annotated with Number, Rank, Name, Causes DOAI (accidental injury); DOD (disease); DOW (drowned); KIA (Killed in Action); MPD (Missing Presumed Dead); and Awards.

A Chronology of Events and Biographical Milestones would have been helpful for the casual reader.

Anne Burke

The Wanton Troopers

Review of The Wanton Troopers, by Alden Nowlan, with an Afterword by David Adams Richards (Fredericton, N.B.: Goose Lane Editions, 2009) 297 pp. paper $19.99.

This is an earlier version (a prequel, if you will) of Various Persons Named Kevin O’Brien; as a Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; a coming-of-age novel, or Künstlerroman. Nowlan‘s raw talent fashioned a compelling narrative about a childhood marred by abject poverty; but infused with an indwelling spirit and the heightened language of Biblical prophecy. The novel was previously published by Goose Lane Editions, in 1988, from a manuscript written in 1961. The present text is accompanied by an Afterword; a biographical note by Patrick Toner, one of Nowlan’s biographers; and An Interview with Alden Nowlan, in 1982, by Jon Pedersen. This is a Reader’s Edition, suitable for students, scholars, and generally interested but motivated readers.

The book title, gleamed from poet Andrew Marvell, does not do justice to its contents and may have rendered it commercially inadequate. Compare the novel A Jest of God, 1974, by Margaret Laurence, on a school teacher, (a role played by Paul Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward), for the film re-titled “Rachel, Rachel.” Nowlan reveals, “The first time Margaret Laurence and I met, she kissed me and she said, “I always kiss members of my tribe.” (p. 275)

Alden Nowlan has a recurring motif of monsters in his poetry and fiction, culminating in the drama of Frankenstein, coauthored with Walter Learning (Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1973). The psychological and psychosexual underpinnings are for others to analyze. Kevin is the product of monsters. His father’s body smells of sweat, tobacco, sawdust, and leather. Yet, it caused Kevin to associate him with “the sharp, good odour of ploughed earth, the aroma of onions and of horse droppings.” (p. 113) Indeed, “The man’s body was adamant, impenetrable like rocky earth.” Compare The Stone Angel, 1974, by Margaret Laurence, in which such imagery prevails.

Kevin intuits a comparison with the yielding, creek-water body of his mother, who is no match for her husband’s spousal assault. Kevin ponders on how man was created from the dust of this earth and that woman had been made from man’s bone. Yet he doubts his familial Christian faith, wondering if this could be a mistake, and his second-guessing extends to the Old Testament narrative of Creation.

Surely, his father had been created from stone, chiseled from a bolder like those that stood in the west pasture. (p. 113) and his mother-his mother had sprung from water risen from the white foam. See: Sandro Bottechelli’s iconic painting “Venus Rising”, a visualization rapt with imagery which is seminal, oceanic, tumescent.

The reader learns that Kevin’s inveterate study of the Bible “altered the very geography of his world.” (p. 159) He is willingly transported into a secret world (of the psychiatric hospital). There is the Old Testament jealous vengeful God. Kevin compares himself to Abraham, called to sacrifice his only son Isaac, but soon Kevin is Isaac himself, before being transliterated into the New Testament Christ, debased and crucified.

The King James Version of the Bible has served many authors with rich, multi-layered, symbolic materials. Kevin is steeped in Christian thinking, due to his grandmother’s influence, discovering a modicum of comfort from the exemplum of David and Goliath, when attempting to deal with his peer group of scapegoats and daredevilism, in grade VI. Along the road to Damascus, he experiences a series of epiphanies; ultimately, seeking surrender, in womb-like confined space.

His inquisitors questioning him appear to be taken, in part, from his stay in a psychiatric institution in Dartmouth at the Nova Scotia Hospital, from which he was released in 1948. He was subsequently hired to write for the Observer, at the age of nineteen.

The display of Kevin, repeatedly pleading for his life and to be spared from further abuse, is melded to wanton violence, against a cow, house cat, women and small children. The technique of stream-of-consciousness is an effective device. “Men spoke of breaking horses, but, in realty, a horse was never wholly broken until it was killed.” (p. 138)

“There were two kinds of fear. There was daytime fear—his fear of his father and of all strong, unpitying daytime things—and there was nighttime fear, the queasy horror he felt when he imagined a creature in a black cloak creeping toward his bed under cover of the wailing darkness.” (p. 133)

What remains forged in the brain are: his father rage when he was drunken and abusive; the self-loathing of the young, callow protagonist; whose mother Mary painstakingly composes letters to imaginary correspondents; and there is just a glimmer of hope in his girl Nancy.

This is an account of the author as a young man, a poet like William Blake, whose writings were attempts at expressing Biblical revelations, before encountering poetry at the age of eleven or twelve. As Nowlan himself argues, he progressed to having his first chapbook of poems reviewed by Northrop Frye. Nevertheless, he cultivated the fantasy of having written a best-selling horror novel, like The Shining.

Ironically enough, he did not make a movie (but he did complete a play, in which he did this one better.) In Chapter Thirteen, a man’s body is fashioned, much like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In the gothic darkness there “[m]ight have been the shadows of vampires and werewolves.” There might be vampires in the Lockhartville Cemetery.” Facing a vampire, Kevin’s lips “might be paralyzed with fear!” In the best tradition of folklore, “Only silver bullets could kill them.” A vampire cannot be seen in a mirror. Kevin avoids looking into a mirror of a reflecting window.

Inevitably, Kevin is interrupted, in this reverie, by his mother. While he may foreswear a closer view of himself, he does project and reflect his home, household, family members.

Was one of these monsters even now placing hairy palms against the inside of a coffin lid? Was something with red, dripping fangs even now crouching under the window.

In spite of himself, he found his eyes turning toward the window. No! He did not wish to look! But his head moved with a will of its own. [He feels possessed] In another second he would be looking at the glass and then he would see—. “What in hell’s the matter with yuh, Kev?” (p. 114)

 An involuntary mantra overtakes his unconscious mind, “But what of the thing in the cellar that drinks so much blood?” (Italics are Nowlan’s.) His conscious mind begins cataloguing, “In an attempt to exorcise the voice, he began a mental catalogue of all the sane, substantial things in this room.” (p. 115)

With this “accomplished” novel, Nowlan is placed in the same category as James Joyce, Norman Maclean, and Ralph Waldo Emerson by David Adams Richards, who was once described by Nowlan as “a brilliant young New Brunswick-based novelist.” (“An Interview with Alden Nowlan”, by Jon Pedersen, p. 266)

Nowlan revealed that his natural reflex was to conceal what he was working on, when someone came into the room, because writing was “a very private thing to me.” (p. 263)

The reader is left to speculate what may have come to pass if Nowlan had rallied his courage and sent his manuscript to more than one publisher. This arises from Richards who defends the novel as “accomplished” after its rejection by an unnamed Toronto book editor who dismissed it.

Other resources will be Patrick Toner’s If I could turn and meet myself: the life of Alden Nowlan (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions, 2000); The Alden Nowlan Papers (University of Calgary Press, 1992); and “Lockhartville and Kevin O’Brien 1987 Response to the staging of drama based on the fiction of Alden Nowlan—in A Lad from Brantford and Other Essays, by David Adams Richards (Fredericton: Broken Jaw Press, 1994), pp. 36-42.

Anne Burke

Best Groundcovers & Vines for the Prairies

Review of Best Groundcovers & Vines for the Prairies, by Hugh Skinner & Sara Williams (Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd, 2008) 234 pp. paper $24.99 Indexed.

This text, with full colour photographs and a map, is suitable for neophytes as well as experienced gardeners, who face the challenging growing conditions of gardens in the Canadian prairies and the northern Great Plains of the United States. Some of the options are: designing by habitat as well as by function. The step-by-step process involves purchasing, planting, and maintaining gardens. There are details about getting ready; purchase and planting; propagating, and maintaining. Proper preparation includes spacing. Propagation involves seed; suckers, divisions, and layers; hardwood and softwood cuttings. Maintenance calls for mulching, pruning, fertilizing, and pest and disease control.

This is an able follow-up to Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies by the same authors. Skinner has a B.S.A. in Horticulture from the University of Manitoba and Williams, who is a retired Horticultural Specialist at the University of Saskatchewan, has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Horticulture from the University of Saskatchewan. She is the author of Creating the Prairie Xeriscape and of In a Cold Land: Saskatchewan’s Horticultural Pioneers and co-author of Perennials for the Plains and Prairies.

There is a Glossary of Terms, a Bibliography for further reading, and an Index.

Anne Burke

Wiser Pills

Review of Wiser Pills, by Richard Stevenson (Calgary, Alberta: Frontenac House Press, 2008) 95 pp. paper.  $15.95.

Author of twenty-three books and four chapbooks, Stevenson does not disappoint us with the current collection of forty-one poems, divided into three sections.

In the first section, “Rock, Scissors, Paper”, about a children’s game, like others, such as “Playing Possum”, he defends a tomboy (“Doreen”) for  being a lesbian; a fish caught with a hook on a line (“The Knife”); adolescent acting-out behaviour (“Mike’s Acid Story” and “A Room Full of Balloons.”). However, the heart of this section is a thorough examination and celebration of the “turned-on, tune-in and drop-out” psychology of the psychedelic Sixties

Like the Romantic period poets who relied on laudanum (opium) for inspiration, Stevenson writes, from inside experience, about visual and auditory hallucinations; and like their poetry, his work sanctions the “Brave New World” of Aldous Huxley, especially the function of “soma” on the human brain. In “Wiser Pills”, an Air Cadet, “a lone crow”, (among “a murder of crows”, that is, “the older boys” of his squadron) answers why he swallows the drugs, “once to belong”, “again, to be strong”, and third “to defy…their lie.” In a companion poem, “Wiser Pills (Reprise)”, the poet evokes the Fifties and popular culture, such as “Patty Duke/ and Donna Reid”, sanitized black-and-white television icons of propriety; the Sixties rock and pop music, of The Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, Jim Morrison; the so-called British band “invasion” of the Beatles, with their embedded messages about LSD in “Lucy in the Sky [with Diamonds].”

Alcohol was once the drug of choice, “Get drunk. Drink me to disappear now. / You are getting smaller.  So small.” Alice Cooper and acid-rock will represent a major shift. In relation to the little pills that Alice in Wonderland was offered, Stevenson attempts to uncover what she “really found on the other side of the looking glass.” Further, he portrays a generation which believed that drug-induced transcendental consciousness was intended “to get us down every rabbit hole pore of our bodies.” The poet personifies these speaking “pills”, with “little Alice [in Wonderland]” voices, promising “to make us wiser, make us taller.” Rather, they are sanctified, to intone Christ’s Last Supper, “Take this in remembrance of me,” the act of transubstantiation in the sacrament of Holy Communion, when the Messianic figure Doctor Timothy O’Leary was once society’s leader of the “Baby Boomers”, post-war prosperity accompanied by spiked fertility rates, before the advent of Free Love made possible by the birth control pill.

Like William Blake’s “grains of sand” in the hand and the soap operatic program “Days of Our Lives”, like “grains of sand / poured through [the] hourglass”, the poet views us “all gathered”, in prime herd mentality, to fit Spandex work-out uniforms. The image of “the little engine that could” derived from a children’s book and combined with the philosophy of Descartes, “I think, therefore I am” is evident in the line, “I think I can, I think I am, I think I, I think, I—”. The human body, composed of nerve synapses, acting as conduits, “the ganglion”, is compared with steam engines, the roundhouse, and steel track, except they are fueled by “the same angst”. For this reason, we cause our own escape from both mind and body, thus “the ghost…can’t find us.”

In the section “An Exercise In Alchemy”, the poet offers a series of work poems which focus on the work place as convenience store, school, and government, when he was employed as a stock boy, a supply teacher / relief janitor, a noxious weed inspector, and on, occasion, university student and poet. He expresses empathy for the everyday, yet unforgettable, characters, “Bob” (“Making an Angel for Bob”) who suffers a nervous breakdown; “Charlie” (“The Day Charlie Got Fired”) on “two tabs of acid”; “Mrs. Nash” (“Mr. and Mrs. Nash”) who has the distinction of being “the oldest, / daffiest cashier on the floor.”; “Alberta (“Albert’s Story”) a spy “sent down from central office”; “Big Al (“Big Al’s Trick”) a school grounds’ keeper.  Of “Gus”, “The truth is he was bored, and so was I” (“Grunt”). He is able to make their case convincingly because— and in spite of— his own wrongful dismissal. The acronym “FUBAR” stands for “Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition”, a fitting motto for this world. He does not view them through rose-coloured glasses. For example, for his fellows, “Poetry begins and ends with dirty limericks” (“Grunt”).  Further, unlike the poet, “[Howie] never has to eat words.” (“Howard’s Teeth”).  

The third and final section entitled “Body Sculpture”, deals with the contemporary obsession with exercise, which has turned unwitting participants into “New Hydes” (as in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde). To counter this search for eternal youth, which he criticizes, is a focus on mania (“Insomniac In a Cold Snap”), death due to brain tumor (“This Is Just to Say”) and an elegy, “First Funeral, In Memoriam: P.V. Stevenson”, all the faults that flesh is to air to. Among his many gifts is Stevenson’s ear for song lyrics, authentic speech patterns, musical cadence and intonation, regular (and irregular) rhythm. These talents are evident in his tour de force “Canada Geese Nest Site, Return Engagement”, in which he imagines geese (well, one gander in particular, capable of public speaking, when introduced by a carnival barker. The poet says his inspiration was a sign at Henderson Lake Park, which claimed: “…these geese are here for your viewing pleasure.” His performance of this poem at the Jubilee Auditorium during the inaugural “Alberta Arts Day” on September 6th brought down the house.

Anne Burke

Conversations with Carol Shields, Random Illuminations

Review of Conversations with Carol Shields, Random Illuminations, edited by Eleanor Wachtel (Goose Lane: Fredericton, N.B, 2007) paper 200 pp. $19.95

The present collection contains interviews with, and also correspondence by, Carol Shields, associated with the writing and publication of her books.

This is a new addition to the editor’s other books of interviews, Writers & Company, More Writers & Company, and Original Minds.

It begins with “Scrapbook of Carol”, a personal essay by Wachtel, who was grieving the death of her mother, but became Carol’s “official bibliotherapist.”

Shields contemplates her childhood (akin to Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood) in “Always a Book-Oriented Kid, The Early Interviews: 1988-1993.” She studied “Dick and Jane” readers, wrote sonnets, then short stories. She took an M.A. in Canadian Literature on Susanna Moodie at University of Ottawa, where she heard Betty Friedan speak on The Feminine Mystique. She was capable of writing from a male point of view, as well as becoming an “in-between” feminist. Mentioned in passing are: Small Ceremonies, The Box Garden, Happenstance, A Fairly Conventional Woman, Swann: A Mystery, Various Miracles, The Republic of Love, and The Stone Diaries.

The next section is a selection of “Letters, 1990-1994” by Shields to Wachtel, beginning with an exchange of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life. Shields commented on her reading materials, teaching Creative Writing, travel, and academic work. Despite completing two articles, on Jane Austen and Margaret Laurence, “I’ve decided I don’t have the bones for academic writing, too much glue and equivocation and timid forays into other people’s theories. Enough.” (p. 59)

By the time of  “The Arc of a Life”, Larry’s Party, Toronto, October 1997, Shields had earned “overnight success” with The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize, The National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Governor General’s Award. Yet, she claims her writing life remained the same. Her new novel arose from a short story called “Larry’s Jacket” and discussions about male friendship, which resulted in “this re-evaluation of what it is, what it means, to be a man.” (p. 88)

In “Letter, 1998”, Shields has applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, with Wachtel as a reference. In “Art Is Making”, Onstage For The Humber School For Writers, Toronto, October, 1998, Wachtel pursues themes or patterns in both Carol’s life and books. Some topics are “why people read novels” and the function of book clubs. Shields reviewed Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Journals, in the Globe and Mail. She attended her forty-fifth high school reunion. In “Throttled by Astonishment”, Dressing Up For The Carnival Onstage At The International Festival Of Authors Toronto, October 1999”, she previews a new book of short stories and its origins. Shields had been diagnosed with breast cancer.As a result, she wanted to write and read about people with common experience, to avoid the feeling of being alone.  At first, she refused to keep a “cancer journal”. Her favourite book was Swann, “I just loved the energy that was flowing through me when I wrote that book, so I remember it as a period of great happiness.” (p. 119)

Shield identifies with Jane Austen, who died in 1817, at forty-one, because both authors did not produce “autobiographical” books. Shields is of two minds about knowing more about a writer. “It may give us understanding of how the novel was put together and why and what it means.” She adds, “And maybe we don’t need to know this. Maybe we don’t need to know anything about the writer.” (p. 143)

Yet, in “Letters, 1999-2001”, Shields confesses, “I think I am happier writing fiction [than the monograph on Austen].” (p. 123). In “A Gentle Satirist, Jane Austen, Carol’s Home, Victoria, March 2001, Shields and Wachtel explore the key events in Austen’s life and the influence of Austen on Shields, who once wrote “My debt to Jane Austen herself is incalculable.” (p. 125) At the same time, Shields believes, “I don’t think my novels are anything like Jane Austen’s novels.” It is interesting to read their speculation on what might have become of Austen, if she had married, since Shields decided to marry and raise a family. What Austen read was a factor in how she wrote, like Shields. How Austen died is important. Poignantly, Shields suggests, “People didn’t talk about cancer in those days and certainly weren’t able to diagnose it always, but I think this is the most probable cause of her death.” (p. 141)

In “Letters, 2001-2002”, we discover Shields “off to chemo right this minute” and “I was in love, standing over the ironing board.” (pp. 145-6) In “Ideas of Goodness”, Unless, Carol’s Home, Victoria, January 2002, Shields reveals the source of the title, in fiction and reality. She relents, in “you’re not forever writing your own autobiography, which is the last thing that most of us want to do.” (p. 151) She has been “interested in the idea of goodness for a number of years.” (p. 153) The “casual disregard of women can be worse than more visible forms of aggression against women.” (p. 155) Of course, September 11th, 2001, has unleashed another cycle of fanaticism, tyranny, and rage. Shields feels she has become increasingly radical.  Self-forgiveness is necessary to dispel regrets.

Shields (and Marjory Anderson) edited Dropped Threads (Wachtel was a contributor).

Wachtel is a recipient of six honourary degrees and, in 2005, she became a Member of the Order of Canada.

Anne Burke

This hot place

Review of This hot place, by Bernadette Wagner (Saskatoon: Thistledown Press, 2010) 80 pp. paper $17.95.

This collection of fifty-seven poems is divided into three sections, by theme or muse, “Maiden”, “Mother”, and, finally, “Crone”.

In “Maiden”, this heroine is counter-culture, who incurs sibling rivalry, the onset of puberty, sexual harassment and sexual assault, the bad boy, wherein religion predominates in the household, diction of the vernacular, in prose poems like “That Time Grandma Asked Me To Find My Sister” and “Corona Hotel”.

The poet observes loss and, unlike her age mates, experiences anticipatory grief, in “Growing Up”.

The setting of auction sales,

Further still, miles and miles
of unbroken prairie where crocuses
push through each spring, where I wander

a child waving at planes.

(“Aerial Photograph”, p. 10)

This is a matriarchal world-view, feminist zeitgeist, with a choral structure of incremental, incantatory repetition of Grandmother’s “curves”, “kleine kind”, “land”, and “Grandmother’s land remembers.” (p. 11) “Grandmother’s creaking gate” (p. 20) “to rock in Grandma’s arms.” (p. 21)

A concrete poem (“Oktoberfest”) with “On Beauty” which dissects a poisoned arrow, with images of knitting, with skeins of yarn.

In “Mother, a dialogue between first-person, who experiences sleep deprivation, (“Not Wanting Any Thing But Sleep”) suffering from post-partum depression; the other voice is in the third-person, text set in italics, of the ideal nurturing mother, juxtaposing alternate realities on the page. (“Motherload”).

She carries with her a copy of A Mother’s Journal, and relies on tranquillizers. (“The Personal is Political”, p. 31) The poem delineates the ages of daughter and son, their childhood experiences as seen through their mother’s eyes.

Newly discovered hazards like “Wascana Creek”, abound. The environment returns to seasonal adjustments, “sky-blue”, whether spring/summer or “A winter week” (“Specimens From The Abbey 2002, p. 37) She pursues right-justified lyrics (“The ‘Help Me’ Beach Ritual”, p. 39) and sprung rhythm (“Lioness”)  Married sex is not as passionate constrained by domestic details. She seeks “a new world. Our only hope” (in an analogy to Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”). A Grandmother moon looms large in the window. She compiles Greek mythology with agricultural vocabulary; Osama Bin Laden with a Halloween jack-o-lantern; the cycles of drought.

Our tears are the rains that rid us of hoppers
turn our parched lives into gardens, blooming.

(“Grasshopper’s Song”, p. 48)

She glimpses the perils of free trade, while shopping and with thoughts of shoplifting, exchanges her sisterless fate with quilting:

How I want to pull it from its dowel,

wrap it round our grief,
wipe tears with its wine-red edge.”

(“Sisterless”, p. 52)

Shades continue to inhabit their environs, the mown lawn, the bookshelf, a wooden spoon, especially Grandmother’s yard and how Grandma died (“This Bleeding Heart”, p. 56)

In “Crone”, she embraces five generations of women, three decades after Grandma’s death (“Sa[l]vage Self”) by emanations from some of their belongings. The crops represent a series of growth, charts resembling the heights of children demarcated on walls. A single mother, a secret illegitimate child, “sister turned mother/mother, in fact, grandmother.” p. 59). In its stead, she makes secrecy her sister (p. 62).  The bloated belly of Venus (“Sacred Sex”), but “Wind Whispers.” (“In The Grasslands”, p. 64) 

Compare “Specimens From The Abbey 2002” with “Coming To: St. Peter’s Abbey, 2004”, and “Mediations on Her Body: St. Peter’s Abbey, 2004”.  In deed and word,

Swatches of her life,
this old piece, her wrinkling body,
a life’s work, the paper trail.

(p. 65)

Playing cards turn Tarot and totemic, her father’s face a litany of fires past, while

While she, first-born daughter,

relegated to the woman’s realm to
cook and clean, hoe and weed,
tend children, gather eggs.

(“Heart Attack”, p. 69)

She observes “The Owl-eyed Goddess”, from “the kitchen I called home”; but “white/mares lead a silver chariot/to light and sky”. By “piercing illusions and making a better world.

The Great Mother reappears (“Clitoris: Her Story”. The psychomachia of “Breathing Space”, and misogynistic taunts (“My Place”) recede, to make way for the concrete poem, a butterfly unfurled onto the page, as a final and flush-centric poem, 

Let the love-whisper
     of the creek lull you
          into presence.

(“So Much You Love This”, p. 78)

Bernadette Wagner organized the popular panel on Mothering for the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets. She authors multiple blogs on women’s issues and political activism.

Anne Burke

Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery

Review of Magic Island: The Fictions of L.M. Montgomery, by Elizabeth Waterston (Oxford University Press: Don Mills, Ontario, 2008) 248 pp. Indexed Cloth $24.95.

Waterston, coeditor with Mary Henley Rubio of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volumes I to V (University of Toronto Press), draws on her intimate knowledge of the Montgomery canon, as well as the novelist’s scrapbooks, diaries, photographs, correspondence, and even business ledgers.

As a result, she has produced “A Reader’s Guide” to twenty-two books of fiction by Montgomery, accompanied by twenty-four black-and white illustrations; Notes, Appendix Containing “Additions to the Manuscript of Chapter 15, Anne of Green Gables”; Works Cited: “Books Read by L.M. Montgomery”; Secondary Sources in “Interpretations and Backgrounds; and Acknowledgments. With a critical “Introduction” and “Conclusion”, Waterston fashions a portrait of an “Island” girl, who outgrew formulaic writing, married a Presbyterian minister, and resettled in Ontario. Montgomery’s “obsessive” reading, “charming” books, and strong work ethic resulted in the publication of “two books every three years, over a thirty year period until 1938, all of them still in print in the twenty-first century.” (p. 6)

Beginning with Anne of Green Gables (1908, Waterston outlines the biographical origins of the orphaned Anne Shirley, as well as the many literary antecedents of this character, based on examples of the orphan motif. The sequel Anne of Avonlea (1909) found a place in the genre of children’s literature; it contains details of teaching techniques, but its author was leading a double life. She suffered from depression despite her commercial success as an author. The next title Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910) was first published as “Una of the Garden”, a five-part serial, in a “women’s magazine” in 1908. In revising the text, the novelist incorporates her interest in psychology and experiences of her broken romances. In The Story Girl (1911), Montgomery was working through her memories of family anecdotes. In Chronicles of Avonlea (1912) she tries her hand at fiction for adult readers, by domesticating Biblical archetypes. In The Golden Road (1913) she compensates for her less than ideal marriage by employing writing as an emotional outlet she will increasingly require. In Anne of the Island (1915), Montgomery set out to write a bildungsroman, about the status of women. The model for “Redmond College” was Dalhousie University, an institution which awarded its first B.A. to a woman in 1885. In Anne’s House of Dreams (1917), the heroine reveals she is pregnant. (Montgomery, then forty-one years old, discovered that she had become pregnant again.)  In Rainbow Valley (1919), there is reflected the conflicts of organized religion. Montgomery sought escape from her delusional husband. (It is thought that he suffered from a bipolar disorder or manic depression.) As for Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920), a culling of stories by her previous publisher caused a dispute over royalties and a lawsuit on behalf of the author’s intellectual property. Waterston examines the stories closely as part of Montgomery’s published fiction, but also in terms of their recurring motifs, their re-use in her later writings, and in relation to stages of Montgomery’s own life. In Rilla of Ingleside (1921), Montgomery recorded her impressions of the horrors of World War I, from the point of view of the Canadian response. In Emily of New Moon (1923), she introduced a new heroine to question patriarchy and socialization. Sequels appeared in Emily Climbs (1925) and Emily’s Quest (1927). The latter is a künsterroman. Montgomery used her dreams as material for The Blue Castle (1926), when she focused on adult rebellion against conformity. In Magic for Marigold (1929) Montgomery attempted to overcome a shift in reading taste, after she was paid a kill fee for some stories. She was interested in the new theory of child psychology offered by Jean Piaget. In A Tangled Web (1931), she was inspired by her grandmother’s old Woolner jug to write an adult story. In Pat of Silver Bush (1933) she recalled her great-aunt Mary Lawson, “Judy Plum”, the mainstay of the Silver Bush household.  Book sales were down. The Great Depression had intervened. Montgomery lost investment of her royalties in the stock market crash of 1929. Family and friends did not repay her for their loans. Nevertheless, her immediate family was depending on her to pay for tuition fees, for example. In Mistress Pat (1935), she relied on her faithful older readers and this book was written while Montgomery’s husband was hospitalized. In Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), the author capitalized on the success of a 1934 moving picture of Anne of Green Gables and the public’s enthusiasm for a new sequel. The film had brought no royalties to the author, due to the fact copyright belonged to her previous publisher. When Montgomery lacked raw material, she re-used her stories published in the Family Herald. Waterston explores the epistolary form, old-fashioned but popular. In Jane of Lantern Hill (1937), Montgomery used a portrait of herself as recorded in her journals. The Canadian Home Journal published her short story called “Tomorrow Comes” a prototype of Jane. By Christmas 1936, Montgomery felt “imprisoned and smothered.” (p. 204)  She managed to write the last chapter…, “my heart bleeding at every word.” (p. 205) In Anne of Ingleside (1939), Montgomery used her own home at “Journey’s End” for a fictional home called “Ingleside.” This was the last work that the author finalized and saw through the press. She was nearly suicidal due to family problems and reiterated a cry, “Oh, motherhood is awful—motherhood is awful!” (p. 208) Furthermore, she was “manoeuvred out” of a leadership role in the Canadian Authors Association. No more Montgomery novels were published after 1939.  Montgomery died in 1942. The fragmented stories she left behind were posthumously published, as The Road to Yesterday, in 1974.

Waterston is fully familiar with her subject and conversant with how those autobiographical persons, both great and small, figure in Montgomery’s fiction. Of Anne of Windy Poplars,

Tension is heightened by the fact that the young suitor is “the new head of Modern Languages Department at Redmond and dreadfully clever.” Dr. Carter comes to dinner, “undeniably handsome and distinguished-looking, with crisp dark hair, brilliant dark eyes and silver-rimmed glasses.” It is a recognizable picture of Montgomery’s former professor at Dalhousie University, Dr. Archibald MacMechan. In his Headwaters of Canadian Literature (1924) MacMechan had paid small attention to the former student whose writings were very much better known than his own. Now Montgomery lets Anne dismiss him, recalling memories of her days at Redmond, where he seemed “a rather pompous young bore.” (p. 196)

Waterston ably situates Montgomery’s vision within the novelist’s growth as an author, as well as the historical background of war and economic collapse.

Of Anne of Ingleside,

The last stage of the process of producing the book was tainted by real unhappiness…Montgomery wrote,…It is surprising how one can grow used to intolerable things—and tolerate them.”  She survived…Immediately she added in an ominous return from fiction to fact, “Hitler has seized Czechoslovakia and a new scare is in the offing.” (p. 214)

As such, Montgomery epitomizes a woman struggling with disappointment, at times, even despair. The descriptions are unflinching and visceral.

Spasms of depression recurred. She [Montgomery] called for help from the doctor who lived across the street.  He gave her a hypodermic injection in the hip, “to tone up the nervous system” (May 3, 1938). More hypodermics, May 8 and May 16, did little to allay her trouble: “I am possessed with a desire to die,” she wrote part way through the treatments (May 5, 1938). May ended: “A terrible, terrible May.” (p. 208)

Waterston not only recreates the shifting moods of her subject, but also draws out the cyclical stages of writer’s block and “flashes” or bursts of inspiration (epiphanies), moments of clarity and insight. Of A Tangled Web,

Montgomery had reached this point in her novel around midsummer of 1930. Her work had stalled.  “I cannot write and that unfinished book haunts me,” she wrote in her journal on July 5, 1930. In August she was still admitting “Am trying desperately to catch up with my new book.” Like Drowned John, she must have muttered rhythmically “By asterisk and by asterisk” and “by more asterisks and very lurid ones.” (p. 167)

Waterston is author of Kindling Spirit: Anne of Green Gables (ECW Press: Toronto, 1993). Montgomery enthusiasts will want to read Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, a new biography by Mary Henley Rubio (Doubleday) available in November of 2008. On the 100-year anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables, it is fitting that “Canada and Japan team for Green Gables film: Finding Anne inspired by famous fictional character”, by Marianne White (Calgary Herald, Monday, 4 August, 2008).

Anne Burke