Guest poem sent in by Shannon West
(Poem #782) National Identity
The Canadian Centenary Council Meeting in Le Reine Elizabeth  To seek those symbols Which will explain ourselves to ourselves Evoke unlimited responses And prove that something called Canada Really exists in the hearts of all Handed out to every delegate At the start of proceedings A portfolio of documents On the cover of which appeared In gold letters not A Mari Usque Ad Mare  not Dieu Et Mon Droit  not Je Me Souviens  not E Pluribus Unum  but COURTESY OF COCA-COLA LIMITED.
Notes:  Posh hotel in Montreal.  'From sea to sea'. The official motto of Canada  'God and my right'. Motto of the British Sovereign - on the British coat of arms  'I remember'. Motto of Quebec; it's even on their licence plates.  'Out of many, One'. American motto. I'm utterly thrilled to see a Canadian theme run in Minstrels. I've been bugging Martin for months to do this. In turn, he's been bugging me to write comments on some of my favourite poems and send them in. Well - he beat me to the punch. F.R. Scott is my favourite poet. He's a satirist through and through. I'm not sure if he's written anything without some kind of bite or sarcasm in it somewhere, usually directed at the notion of Canadian culture. His best known poem is "A Lass in Wonderland" which is about the infamous Lady Chatterley's Lover case in Quebec. (I'm going to bug Martin until he runs it). [As the man said, 'be patiently' :) - m.] There's a bit of history to this poem. The Canadian Centenary Council was established in 1960 by a large group of public-spirited citizens as a clearing house and information centre to promote ideas for 1967 (The Canadian Centennial year). Its primary goal was to persuade businessmen and others to contribute ideas, initiative and money to the centennial. (Miriam McTiernan and Jacqueline Murray (1978)) A big part of this council was to decide what was inherently Canadian. What is representative of Canadian culture? There have been dozens (if not hundreds) of poems, stories, essays and jokes written about this very topic. Some have concluded that we're a weird mishmash of American, British, and French, with some Eastern European thrown in for colour, but no one has been able to satisfactorily put their finger on what exactly Canadian culture is. Scott is particularly critical of the notion of "Canadian culture", though there are those among us that would argue that he himself became integral to it. In this poem he's particularly bitter, even for him, though, for some reason, I picture him smiling at the irony of it. Imagine, a team of bureaucrats and politicians being appointed to this council to discover and employ those symbols of Canadian identity. And in gold letters on the folder (which is probably one of those over-priced leatherette portfolios) isn't the famous Latin mottoes, isn't a Canadian flag (the British Ensign at the time) or a fleur-de-lis, but a "Courtesy of Coca-Cola Limited", the quintessential corporate symbol. He's saying that our culture is neither American, British, French or any other nationality, but corporate. And he's probably not far off. Bio: F.R.(Francis Reginald) Scott was born in Qubec City, Qubec, in 1899. He died in Montreal in 1985. He was a Rhodes scholar and went to Magdalen Coll, Oxford. After his return to Canada, Scott enrolled in the law program at McGill University. He would later return to teach law at McGill, and eventually, after giving up partisan politics, was named the Dean of Law at McGill (1961-64). As a member of the "Montreal Group" (an informal group in Montreal that included Scott's close friend, poet A.J.M. Smith) he helped to found The Canadian Mercury journal. Well reknowned for his social activism, Scott was the national chairman of the CCF from 1942 to 1950 and was involved in the transition of the CCF to the NDP. Scott won the Governor General's Literary Award in the poetry category in 1981 for his book, Collected Poems. -- http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/faculties/HUM/ENGL/canada/poet/f_scott.htm Shannon Links: Here's a Scott page, with some bibliographic references: http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/faculties/HUM/ENGL/canada/poet/f_scott.htm An essay on Scott: [broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/canpoetry/cpjrn/vol27/campbell.htm Scott's father was a poet in his own right - see http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/authors/scottf.html And the previous poem in the Canadian theme: poem #781