Wrapping up the rather desultory whirlwind tour through Canadian poetry...
(Poem #787) Sea-Gulls
For one carved instant as they flew, The language had no simile -- Silver, crystal, ivory Were tarnished. Etched upon the horizon blue, The frieze must go unchallenged, for the lift And carriage of the wings would stain the drift Of stars against a tropic indigo Or dull the parable of snow. Now settling one by one Within green hollows or where curled Crests caught the spectrum from the sun, A thousand wings are furled. No clay-born lilies of the world Could blow as free As those wild orchids of the sea.
From 'Many Moods' (Macmillan 1932, p. 9) There isn't really a lot I want to say about today's poem - I just love the images it evokes, the play of light, colour and motion against a backdrop of sun, sea and above all, space. It also touches explicitly upon another of my favourite topics, the connection between poetry and visual art. Pratt has been criticized for being too impersonal, as if that in some way diminshed the quality of his poetry (flying, as it does, in the face of the 'spontaneous overflow of emotion' theory). However, reading poems like Sea-gulls leaves me in little doubt that Pratt was fully responsive to, and appreciative of, the beauty of which he wrote, and that the care with which he crafts and polishes his poetry detracts not at all from its merits. To quote Froese in her essay on 'Pratt as Lyricist' Furthermore, though it may be necessary to coin a new term to describe Pratt's peculiar rendering of emotional intensity, I would agree with Robert Gibbs, who in "A True Voice: Pratt as a Lyric Poet," pointed out that Pratt is not devoid of emotion, but masks that emotion behind irony and understatement. It is precisely his impersonal, controlled prose together with the ambiguous, ironic reversals at the end of many of his shorter poems that create a sense of passion repressed, and it is his effacing of the individual specific viewpoint that allows him to evoke common agonies and dilemmas. Links: Here's a reading of the poem by Pratt himself http://www.trentu.ca/pratt/recordings/recording04/10.wav Pratt's daughter, the artist Claire Pratt, has a beautiful picture based on the poem: [broken link] http://126.96.36.199/library/exhibitions/cpratt/gulls.htm An essay on 'Pratt as Lyricist' [broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/canpoetry/cpjrn/vol30/froese.htm A Pratt page: http://www.library.utoronto.ca/canpoetry/pratt/ And what will be the Complete Poems of Pratt: http://www.trentu.ca/pratt/ A reminiscent poem is Teasdale's exquisite 'Morning': poem #113 On the Theme: This was a rather hard theme to put together - I was hampered slightly both by my relative unfamiliarity with Canadian poetry, and by the sheer volume and diversity of works from which to choose. The poems chosen for the theme represent, for the most part, those poets with whose works I was already acquainted [Pratt is actually the one exception]; I did discover a lot of new poets in the course of reading up on Canadian poetry, but decided to populate the theme with familiar faces. There are, unavoidably, several glaring omissions (Bliss Carman, for example); I'll definitely be running more Canadian poets in the future, particularly some of the later ones. More Links: Theme Summary: Poem #781 Robert Service, 'The Law of the Yukon' Poem #782 F.R. Scott, 'National Identity' Poem #783 Stan Rogers, 'Northwest Passage' Poem #784 Archibald Lampman, 'To a Millionaire' Poem #785 Margaret Atwood, 'Postcard' Some essays on Canadian poetry in general: 'Canadian Poetry in its Relation to The Poetry of England and America' [broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/canpoetry/cpjrn/vol03/bentrob.htm 'Wanted - Canadian criticism' [broken link] http://www.arts.uwo.ca/canpoetry/eng%20274e/smith.htm An extensive collection of Canadian poetry: [broken link] http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/canvers/ehome.htm And finally, a fascinating work-in-progress, 'History of Canadian Poetry': [broken link] http://www.poets.ca/pshstore/sidebar/sidehistorycdn.htm m.