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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Reader's Diary #129- Adrian Fowler and Al Pittman (editors): 31 Newfoundland Poets (FINISHED)

A note to Jesperson Press , Breakwater Books, or any other publisher in Newfoundland: I want to compile a collection of poems (not mine, so don't worry!) about the Beothuks and call it "Guilt".

I know that sounds like a controversial title, but hear me out. So many Newfoundland poets that I've read, have at least one or two poems about the (definitely not forgotten) Beothuks. Why is that? I'm sure that some would argue that it's because of some mystical feeling that they're still among us somehow (re: Tom Dawe's "In There Somewhere"), some would argue it's to give voice to a people that have no longer have a voice (re: Michael Cook's "On The Rim Of The Curve") and I'm sure others would argue any number of other reasons. But truth be known, when you tease out all the psychological mumbo-jumbo, it all comes down to guilt. Guilt over the abscence of an entire race of people. Were any of us actually responsible? Well, no. But many of our ancestors were. If not directly, then by their mere germ-filled presence. Or worse, by turning away from the injustices. The Beothuks, or more correctly, the loss of the Beothuks, is as much a part of the Newfoundland psyche as the loss of the cod. Both themes have been explored in innumeral ways by innumeral people. But it's the Beothuks that interest me. Something about the art that has arisen from the burial grounds of these people, tells me it's more than a curiousity about a particular group that is no longer with us. It's guilt. It's shame. There's a subtle notion that while Brigitte Bardot and the McCartney's might be off base with the anti-sealing campaign, the extinction of the Beothuks confirms that at least for one dark time in our history, we were barbarians. The Beothuk poems serve as an apology first. They serve as proof second; proof that we are not monsters. Guilt plagues us like small pox and starvation plagued them. The difference is, we survive guilt.

2 comments:

chuck said...

John

You are giving voice to the voiceless...

John Mutford said...

Guilty as charged.