Thursday, May 18, 2006

The new landscape of home

From Michael Ondaatje to Dennis Lee I love Canadian Poetry. As Canadian culture becomes less outwardly driven, and continues to fall prey to the assaults of mindless consumerism and inward selfindulgence from the south, I fear we are losing crucial features of what it is to be Canadian. As the poem to deflower myself on this blog I wanted to share Daryl Hine's "Northwest Passages". The reason I chose this poem is that it reminded me of what it used to be like to be Canadian; of those long road trips through the Rockies and the distinct smell of dried pine needles and camp fires; of leaving the mountains only under the strict compromise that you would soon return. As our beautiful landscape becomes less sacred and more a marketable commodity, I fear the nature my children know will be distinctly different from the one that had me addicted at a young age. Not only the physical landscape but also the way we perceive nature. I have never felt like the mountains, or nature in general, was an escape from home, rather I've always seen them as a return to it. I hope my children, when the unlucky little guys arrive sharing the same bald head and dazed look as their father, will feel the same way I do about nature but also fear that instilling that in them may be more of a battle than it was for my father many years ago.

Northwest Passages (Daryl Hine)

Here low tide and morning coincide
When oceans underside, as if a veil
Were twitched aside, denuded by the tide,
Emerges flat, unprofitable, stale.
Here pubescent forests fail to hide
The five-o'clock shadow on the mountainside
Close shaven to make news print and junk mail.
Here civilization, predominantly male,
Perpetrates unnatural matricide.

Snooty, aloof, polluted mountaintops,
Stuck-up their heads forever in the clouds
While they cold-shoulder low-brow tourist traps
Strike forbidding, lofty altitudes
Against a breathless sky, sublimely iced.
How isolated and exclusive are
the uninhabitable altitudes
Domesticated by the calendar,
The picturesque prohibitively priced.

Stark on the covers of slick magazines
Where landscapes look too beautiful for words.
The wilderness excels at making scenes.
Its present rate of defloration means
That travel nowadays is for the birds.
The home of mobile homes away from home,
Once the haunt of cormorants and cranes,
Of eagle and of seagull, has become
The realm of Burger Kings and Dairy Queens.

Thoughts. Oh and thanks for letting me post on this blog everyone and I look forward to a more serious discourse as is often the case over in the fruit basket.


elisabeth said...

i like that part "pubescent forests fail to hide the five-o'clock shadow on the mountainside"
it describes that view perfectly. where you would wish to always see lush forest, you come across this instead. it's such an assault on the otherwise perfect scenery.

welcome aboard sean!

Dagga said...

This is one scary poem,
the memory of my drive through the Rockys will never be the same.
It has a gothic feeling that I thought was only possible in darkness and fog. A deforested mountainside is a horrible sight though and even more so in the sparkling sunlight. It´s the "has become The realm of Burger Kings and Dairy Queens." that is burned into my mind though.

Seaneria said...

It is a scary poem. I love the use of the word "Matricide", from a male dominated world. It's such a great descriptive vehicle for the assault on 'Mother' Nature! Also our taming of the high altitudes through calendars ect. And this is why I love poetry, the words are so artistically and precisely placed to create more than a story but a feeling; more than a drawing but a sculpture that is alive!

elisabeth said...

it's funny; i never read poetry but i love reading song lyrics, which i guess is poetry. i think hearing the song first gets me interested in reading all the lyrics. i have just read so much boring pretentious poetry in my life that i have been turned off it. this one that you showed me is good though. i'm looking forward to more so that maybe i can let go of this aversion and stop missing out some good stuff.

phyllis sweetwater said...

Sean I'm glad you joined the basket because you can introduce us to some new work and we dont have to admit to you that we are unfamiliar with it. this one in particular just me a little different, i still saw the beauty and majesty despite the little antagonistic humans and their follies. i think the mountains themselves are stiking forbidding lofty attitudes. too bad the bad guy can do so much damage. it is well written.