S'True coolness, at least in Northern Ontario, MexiCanAmerica (a.k.a. BIG MAC). If Vancouver poet, novelist, essayist, exemplary hair-raising hubsand (a.k.a. Mr. Jeanius Baird), lit-lifer, and dear friend George Bowering
don't stop snagging a swig of swagga-bragga-dociotica offa me, I am
gonna haul off and hug him or something stoopid. "You got daffodils
over there yet?" (February jab, the sneaky deke, so to speak.) March?
Bowering's e-smirk-sneerkering: "Ontario still there under all that
snow? I'd rescue you but I dnt think even my supersnowshoes would make
it through that mountain." (Oh, Lard. He thinks I will take that
"What's the story, MorningGlory? Yeppers. Bit rainy today.
Basement flooded frm runoff. Spring ritual here, eh? Lilac next in the
dryrd bloom. Glad U agree with me concerning the 'specially' in
Winnie's 'Musée,' the way it matters in JNLove's 'Concerning Stars, Flowers, Love, Etc.'
'Course, it ain't unusual, once you see it, Son. You dinnit notice it
till I told you. 'Fess up! You R using weather to shield yourself
from admitting it is all. S'Okay, you can tell me. I know what you did for Al Purdy, eh?
(Final score: 4-4. There ain't no shootouts in poetry . . . yet.
Gawd knows, someone prolly will come up with a duel-to-the-dithyrambic
death somewhere. Poetry? Don't think so. Score: Dithyrambo goose
So much for National Poetry Month, then. So little, actually; but,
that's another story, one I quit telling when I read the lines between
the lines of the writing on the wall, the brick one, that one you hit
licketty-splat despite every affirmation to the contrary laughing all
the way to the brink.
Someone explain to me why poetry needs or deserves a special month,
specially because we don' celebrate National Fiction Month nor National
Creative-Non-Fiction Month nor . . . you get the idea. I don't. I
can't see it. Never could. Never understood why literature co-opted
the star-maker machinery of the music-bizth industry.
Anyway, I gave up National Poetry Month for Lent. I'm good.
'Sides, the real poetry happening on this continent? The playoffs. I
did not see the opening playoffer; but, Carey Baby brought one home for
CanMomma. MY HABS blanked BROON GOONS. 'Nuff bled. The Smurfs rise
again. I was right about The Chirpster Subban. Nyah-nyah. Heritage
Minister of Kutli-Pax, Inc. — Forget the guy's name — Didn't he finger
another team for Our Glorious Leader's HarperLand?
Well, looks who's scary, now. If Canada possesses a national hockey
team, one deserving that incredibly offensive designation, I'd put my
moolah on The Make BeLeafs. Even the owner of the Washington Caps said
something along the lines of, Well, of course, Toronto. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS! That's the Vatican of HockeyLand. (I, a HABSIGAL, genuflect and concede the point. Small wonder Leaf Nation flourishes.)
So much poetry, all of it imagined in my head till now because? For
the first time since January '95 when I retired from Trawnna, ON (a.k.a.
The Big Choke), that megalopolis with one too many peep-squeakers where
I got borned, I got to watch a holy game in the fresh on Butch's TV, a little colour number pulling in the myth-match of the regular season, the off-topper non-pareil:
Two O-Sixers, Carey Baby versus The Reiminister, MY HABS versus HIS LAFFS.
"Leafs," stresses he. "If you call the Leafs any names during
your maiden visit to the ButchRanch, you have to walk home even though
we got here in your truck. I have the keys. Also, if I get a call from
one of my girls, you can't come over, either. Don't get too excited.
If I can, I am gonna watch the game with a dame more interested in me
than hockey. Also, you bring dinner annnnd . . ."
Televisual hockey! Whoa. Fast. Bring the redline back ipso-quicko.
The rink surface area? Way too small for the speed of the game.
Soften the upper-body armour. Make zero-tolerance the hard fast Rule 48
. . . And, who the hell are those clowns "calling" the game, the
play-by-play, wantonly flaunting Danny Gallivaunting it? (Man, they
clearly need to attend the Foster Hewitt School of Righteous Indignation
and Christly Exultation. Yesterdead.)
Riiiight. What was I thinking, dragging you through my tiny puny
life, not e-tapping out literary mash notes to this or that National
Poet comme une journo real?
Jones. David Jones.
That's what or rather, I ought to keystroke, who. The greatest
High-Modernist of 'em all. I am up way past my bled-time writing to
dreadline wondering why April ain't National Hockey Month. That makes
sense to me. I can handle it.
So could King David. Fought in WWI. Never got laid in his lifetime.
Wrote the true masterpiece of the twentieth century. You'll see.
Halfway through composing it, shaping and making it, what did he do with
the manuscript? He broke it in half to make The Anathemata whole. Christ. The Holy Host. The ritualistic Eucharistic blissness (not bizthness).
See? What bothers me? People say hockey ain't culture. Opera and poetry? Check. Theatre and classical music? Check. Les bleu, blanc, et rouge? SCORED TWICE :), Mate!
If hockey ain't part of our cultural-fabric DNA, then novels, plays, performances, et so forthia? Ain't either. Jones wrote, in "Use & Sign," something along the lines of the difference between culture and civilisation.
The former, gratuitous (read: the use-less), balances the latter (the
use-ful, that which keeps the turns stiling and them registers
ka-chinging). Utterly useless art and culture keep the human in
humanity. We need and crave both.
It would be supremely disingenuous to suggest commerce and the
economy don't matter. Of course, they do; but, they feed the mind and
body, not that something extra we all cherish because it allows for
express transport out of this world way too much with us, specially now,
specially this morning with the sun hovering above the treeline and the
world, never various, beautiful nor new, disappears for that wild
peculiarly joyous instant when time stands still, space takes a powder,
and you know the difference between real and true.
Hockey, despite the NHL — Gary Buttman, Come-on get-gone, NOW — plus
the NHLPA Fehr-Factoring PTB's best attempts to commodify and glamorise
our game out of existence, still sparkles in its pristine purity, still
provides comfort, solace and, most importantly, engagement. You cannot
put a dollar value on its ability to communicate the heart and soul of
truth and beauty. It's gratuitous, glorious and, when MY HABS win,
magnificent. That makes it an art, a sacred one. The NHL makes money;
the players make magic. Simple as that.
Which brings me back to Bowering, to thinking about his very first
appearance in print, his first published poem, the one he granted our
home blog, " In Other Words" exclusive rights to reprint here last year. What a coup! Best argument for our culture yet.
Think about it: Canada's first official poet laureate, George Bowering, made his big-league début in The Hockey Digest.
You see? You can connect the dots from that point forward. (Just ask
The Rocket.) Al Purdy, not to be outdone, wrote one of his greatest
poems ever, "Hockey Players," because GeoBoi beat him to the puck.
That's a trufax. Al told me so the time I visited Purdytion at Roblin's Mills. Now, Geo Mon Amio knows he was the real muse for that poem. (Happy Hockey Month, Bro'.)
Never mind. I gave up NPM for Lent because I believe poetry
intransigently denies up-tartification and defies commodification by
definition. Poetry owes nuthin' to nobody nor should she. You can
"invent" a flavour of the month; but, inevitably, said poet du jour gets
swallowed up wholly and fully by Arnold's sea of faith.
Egawds. Jes' returned from ogling Canada Reads Poetry. Ick.
Ick? Pure ick-schtick. Why? Canada does NOT — nor, IMO, should any
citizen of Human Nation be forced to so do — generally read poetry.
Mostly, MexiCanAmericans all wrapped up on this ball of worms for the
duration, forever intertwingled, do not read poetry. What's news,
there, really? At the height of their stellarosity, even Byron, Keats,
Shelley, et.ilk. depended on "other income" to do the one thing
they could not but do. Make and shape poetry. It shows. Exquisitely.
Priceless for all eternity.
Dithyrambic duels diminish the highest art to a rapid vapid package
that can be signed, sealed, delivered, and dismissed. Poetry will
outlast us all, the same way true legends on ice (and paper or pixels
do). Come 21 April, let us celebrate the life and afterlife of Alfred
Wellington Purdy, OC (30 December 1918-21 April 2000).
Now, I return you to your regularly skedded miracles (since duty beckons
above and beyond the call of beauty); and, what a gift granted yours
truly, all these truly outstanding poems from Human Nation. Hallelujah
and Praise Make BeLeafs [Butch & George's team]).
p.s. GO HABS GO!!1!™
Judith Fitzgerald — poet, editor, and cultural commentarian with 30
works (including poetry, biography, anthologies, and children's books)
to her credit — tappy-tips on poetry for The Globe and Mail's "In Other Words" and is a contributing reviewer for that newspaper, a regular contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer's
Books Pages, and a Poetry Fellow of the Chalmers Arts Foundation.
Short-listed for — or recipient of — several major honours including the
Fiona Mee Literary-Journalism, Trillium, Governor-General's Poetry and
Writers' Choice Awards (among others), her last collection, the
four-part Adagios Quartet
(ten years in the making), appeared 11 November 2007 (Oberon). She
rests on it. The ex-Torontonian, freshly minted Official Poet Laureate
of The Toronto Star's "A Leaf Fan's Blog" headed up by
SuperScribe Vinay Menon, now calls Northern Ontario's Almaguin Highlands
home. Visit her WriteSite on the CyberRange here.