Distractions, digressions, nationalistic feelings and literary mudfights on the internet

There have been many, of late. Do we all have spring fever?

Good V evil
Originally uploaded by Shahireh.

The Globe and Mail wrote a fine editorial praising “industrialist Scott Griffin” for his upping of his namesake poetry prize; unfortunately they had to quote an American poet to do it. Do with Emily Dickinson what you will (and I’d prefer to leave her in the attic, but that’s just my opinion) but the fact that the fine folks at Canada’s other national newspaper couldn’t find a single poem by a single living Canadian poet to quote from is mighty unfortunate, to say the least, and it perhaps underscores the need for patrons like Mr. Griffin to put some financial heft behind our national literature in order to demonstrate “to the rest of the world that Canada holds poetry to be as critical to its culture as more popular pursuits such as writing a hit song, and … establish Canada as a mature, literate Western nation with an intact soul.” Soul; schmoul, I can think of 40 Canadian poets off the top of my head who could have been quoted in this editorial!

In any case I have been having a delightful debate in the comments field of this story with some individual who feels that poetry in Canada has gone downhill since “poetry was captured by Postmodern pretensions, or politicized by marxists in the English departments, whose literacy extends to comic books and Japanese anime.” Fun!

Ian Brown thinks that sneaking poetry into the office is a perfect waste of time. I used to sneak poetry out of the office…snippets of texts, conversations, meetings. I was forever emailing words and phrases to myself at home. The comment streams of CBC.ca news stories were quite fruitful. In his article, Mr. Brown does mention the names of the Canadians nominated for this year’s Griffin prize, and name-drops Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes (U.K.), Francis Turner Palgrave (U.K.), Stanley Kunitz (U.S.), Ben Jonson (U.K.), Percy Bysshe Shelley and the Norton Anthology of English Literature (natch) but he quotes: Thom Gunn (U.K.-U.S.), Ian McEwan (U.K.), J.V. Cunningham (U.S.), Frank O’Hara (U.S.) and Mary Oliver (U.S.).
I think Mr. Brown is a good journalist and I enjoy his columns, but I think we need to sneak him some Canadian poetry ASAP, c/o Globe and Mail. Anyone?
Stephen Patrick Clare and Trevor Adams, authors of Atlantic Canada’s 100 Greatest Books, are working on a collaborative Canada’s 100 Greatest Books project, to be published in book form in 2011, however they’ve taken criticism from people like Sean Cranbury for not including poetry or drama in their allowable genres and for not using a transparent, quantifiable method for tallying the votes. They now appear to be trying to rectify at least the omission of poetry and drama, if their Facebook wall is to be believed. These two also mention “the soul of a nation” in their project statement…what’s with all this “soul” business? The entire concept gives me hives, but I wish them luck.

Nikki Reimer enjoys a good fight, on or offline.

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