Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Other Ontario: reclaiming the fanciful

Phil Hall hails from the Other Ontario

On a visit to Regina a few years back, a very beautiful snowfilled clear sky days sort of visit, I stayed at a bed and breakfast, and i met a few of the people who were linked by a web of friendship with the owner of the b&b. A neighbour dropped by, to speak briefly of his travels, and when my hostess told me that he had come to the prairies from Ontario, his whole body language transformed: she recognized the problem and quickly added, the Other Ontario. This set him at his ease. Not Toronto not Ottawa, he clarified, the real place.

 Me & Morisseau were both abused as kids
both drank like carp then sang by hand
 of a Canada that deplorably survives
high in the clawed glistening air
 Our giant muskrat soul kept falling apart
into butchered townships aflame with primal colour
 & the spit of the grease was the shared song
of the brush & the pen slicing through forgiveness
Phil Hall, Forget magazine, 02/12/01

Although Phil Hall has lived across the urban south, he springs from the Other Ontario, and no matter how much time he has spent in engaging with the craft of poetry and the working conditions associated with this particular craft, he has not seen fit to scrape away the source, even as he has scraped away at the source with many strategies, book after book, performance after performance.

Killdeer has been influenced by fiddle music, Hall said, including Maple Sugar.

"I like the way a fiddle tune can go long and then tight really quickly. I listened to a lot of them to see if I could get that bounce and turnaround and repetition and that comfort of them in there without jeopardizing anything I had to say."

Image source Ottawa Citizen, quote from London Free Press (same image)

Each essay-poem is an aspect of memoir, storytell, argument, and informed by music, including the music of the human voice. What is documented here are the apprenticeship, journeyman years, co-workers and thought-provokers, managerial gripes gathered from wrangling poetics (self-management), or breaking in yet another new flock of greenhorns (sharing the craft):

On a Sunday morning in July 1973 I hitchhiked from Bobcaygeon
to Lakefield to meet Margaret Laurence
Becoming a Poet , Killdeer

Realism - is a useful falsehood - a tear-jerker

But when it is waved as part of a campaign to dummy-down the
complexity of impression/expression

Realism (saliva & semen & butter & baby oil) becomes emotional

The Small Sacrifice, Killdeer

The furthest I ever ran away - was from what my childhood &
region seemed to insist on

Silence - ignorance - bitterness - crudity - xenophobia -
contempt for all that is fanciful (books etc) - addiction - violence
- mysogeny 

Verulam, Killdeer

Congratulations to Phil, and to all of the poetry nominees, each capably representing a spirit, a region (including the other Other Ontario, but not all regions alas), a swathe of Canadian literary wealth, and human engagement: 

~ Susan Musgrave ~

~ Garry Thomas Morse ~

 ~ Kate Eichhorn ~

 ~ Michael Boughn ~

2007 essay by rob mclennan, On Phil Hall


an autumn song

maple sugar

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