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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reader's Diary #270- Malcolm Ross (editor): Poets of the Confederation (FINISHED)

I'm beginning to think that I'm a much tougher sell on old poetry than on new poetry. I'm sure there are plenty traditionalist out there who scoff at a lot of new stuff, but I have to say that I for one, am glad a lot of the stuffiness has been removed. Maybe it's just a matter of poetry keeping pace with the language (though I've yet to see a poem with LOL in it).

Of the four poets in this particular collection, I liked two of them. Charles G. D. Roberts had his charm, but my favourite of the lot was Duncan Campbell Scott. He seemed the most adventuresome, trying out a variety of forms and themes rather than strictly adhering to the sonnet and finding one's soul in the stars (yawn). I really enjoyed his more narrative poems usually about first nations characters. I also found he experimented a little more. One poem entitled "Powassan's Drum" for instance, begins with the line "throb-throb-throb-throb-" and repeats these four words throughout. Risk taking should always be a part of poetry and I doubt any of the other poets in the collection would have tried it.

Archibald Lampman was one of those poets who seemed a little more hung up on conventions. On of these is the overuse of the Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet. I don't know why the rhyme scheme (ABBA ABBA CDC CDC) doesn't work for me. Take the first four lines of "Death",

I like to stretch full-length upon my bed,
Sometimes, when I am weary body and mind,
And think that I shall some day lie thus, blind
And cold, and motionless, my last word said.


For some reason, though I can clearly make out the rhyme scheme on the page, my brain doesn't connect the two A's, in this case, "bed" with "said". I don't know if I'm just not reading it right, I can't get the rhythm or what, but there seems to be too many words in between to allow for any flashback, any jumping the synapse.

I also noticed how often these poets personified nature; "the pensive woods", "the lilies asleep in the the forest", and so on. Is it just me or was this more common back then? One of the things I appreciated recently about Karl Sturmanis's poetry was that he more often applied nature's characteristics to us rather than the other way around. Something about the other way seems a little egocentric, like the world revolves around us. I'd rather think we were animals than vice versa.

2 comments:

Allison said...

I'm very much the other way around, its harder for me to fall for recent poetry, I expect more from it, and could be that I'm not reading the right stuff, but I find it few and far between.

John Mutford said...

Must have been the mood I was in Allison. I don't stick by that statement at all today. Of the poems I don't like from long ago, it's just for different reasons than the contemporary ones that I dislike. In retrospect I probably like an equal number (if not more) poems written pre-1950 than those written since. When does contemporary begin?