Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Canadian Images

South of North : Images of Canada / Richard Outram; drawings by Thoreau MacDonald
Erin, ON : Porcupine's Quill, c2007.

Because of connectivity issues yesterday, I could not post a poem. So today, in recompense, I will post two, from this recent publication I received from
Porcupine's Quill, and enjoyed very much.

From the publisher:
For this collection of uncommon plainsong, editors Rosemary Kilbourn and Anne Corkett have chosen poems and illustrations by a poet and an artist who both recognized that simplicity and restraint are among the most difficult of achievements in art...Thoreau MacDonald was the son of J.E.H. MacDonald [of the
Group of Seven]. Outram had long admired MacDonald's drawing, and Thoreau's spare, evocative pictures drew from Richard a different aspect of his wordsmith's craft.

This collection is a posthumous gathering of Richard Outram's poems. As the subtitle suggests, it presents poems which capture images of the countryside. Collecting these poems together with the straight-forward black & white drawings of Thoreau MacDonald was a stroke of genius, as the two complement and support one another beautifully. This is a lovely book, showing perhaps the fact that these two artists' vision is very similar, that both were concerned with the world around them. The whole book, both poems and illustrations, gives me the sense of a subdued and pensive observer reflecting on the countryside. The poems are mainly brief ones, capturing a moment's vision of something either visually striking or emotionally resonant. I enjoyed being able to read a few at a time and then let them sink in. It's a beautiful collection and I'm very pleased to have read it. An interesting tidbit about the title: Thoreau MacDonald's father, J.E.H., was an absorbed reader & writer as well as a painter, and had a volume of poetry published posthumously, called West by East. What a lovely echo this is.

Here are the promised TWO poems! First, a gorgeous image:


Having survived the nightlong
lances of ancient starlight,
the batter of velvet moths,
woven between the veranda's
elaborate zinc gingerbread
and the pale lilac, the ragged
orb-web at first morning
has captive for one immortal
instant the trembled theorem
of water-beads, the sun's
slant white rage.

And another, eminently suitable for our poetry month:

Shining April Morning

Old snow, grainy, deep in the swale
pointing the terra-cotta dogwoods,
the clumped cinnabar-green alders;

and snow left in the curved furrows,
leaving the sloped field ribbed with
black welts, brilliant with wet glint;

water-trickle everywhere, the day
polished in bright spring light. Crows,
raucous, slant into the sun's dazzle.

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