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April is Poetry Month

Poetry has been part of our Island life since our ancestors began to gather here. Most of us remember our parents rhynming off "recitations" that would make our jaws drop. I don't think kids have to do that anymore. We were on the edge. Mildred Harrington had quite a repertoire and so did Austie Trainor "Santa Claus" - so did our father. Whatever it was that stuck, I just can't pass over something written in verse without spending a moment. Poetry has been in Island newspapers since they started printing them. Here's one from the PEI Registre of September 1826, signed "Mc." He[?] claimed it was written "on straying among the rural scenes on Hillsborough Bay" Here's one verse:
Still fair be thy flowers tho' they blossom unseen,
By streams ever limpid - mid' woods ever green!
When far from this isle and its beauties away
The dream of its lovliness ne'er shall decay;
But traced in this bosom still dear shall remain,
Till bleast I may visit these lov'd haunts again,
A-ling'ring each lonely soft scene to renew,
Where light as Elysium my happy days flew.
And then there was the one in The Examiner in May 1850 about Mayflowers:
Far away o'er the heath, on the mossy hill side,
I cull'd thee, thou sweet one, for my garland of pride;
And no spot in this world to my heart would be dear,
If thou, the wilderness beauty, blossom'd not there.
E.M. in 1842 wrote in the Royal Gazette about Mayflowers this way: "Welcome pretty floweret, Hardy little thing, Wintry storms before thee fly Thou herald of the spring."

And then some else wrote "A home so dear. lies in the sea, An Island that we love Surrounded by great rocks and sand And clear blue sky above."

We had more serious poets, too like John LePage [1813-1886] (who called himself The Island Minsteral), John Cavan, John Hunter Duvar, an Elizabeth S. MacLeod, Elizabeth Lockerby and of course Lucy Maud Montgomery. And there were others who had a natural bent. Once we had Margaret Furness MacLeod read at Beaconsfield. She was along in years then, but beautiful and gracious. She lived in Montreal, but she was born in Vernon, PEI. She wrote this one in memory of her father:

Tomorrow will be Spring
Ah! no, my child, I cannot so with you.
Tomorrow will be spring.
Daily the sun is adding moments to the light,
And one week hence will set
Behind the Cavanagh house.
Lonely? Why yes, so many old friends gone,
But then there is the Vernon
Flowing by my door.
I love the crunching sound of ice in Spring
Leaving the brick red banks,
And clasping, lover-like, a willow
With your mother's name carved in the bark -
No, child I cannot go with you,
Tomorrow will be spring
Islanders have a couple of very interesting connections with famous poets. Elizabeth Bishop [1927-1979] is a most celebrated. An American poet, she lived a long period of her life in Brazil, but she was born in Worchester of a PEI father or at least grandfather. He and his father were in the construction business. The Bishops had come from Murray River area. Her mother was from Nova Scotia and when her father died she went there for awhile and then went back and lived with her Bishop grandparents in Mass.. I love her poetry. My favourite is called One Art:
The art of losing isn't hard to master,
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day,
Accept the fluster of lost door keys,
the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. and look! my last, or next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster, some realms, I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

Even losing you [the joking voice, a gesture I love] I shan't have lied. It's evident the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like [Write it!] like disaster.

Oh yes, the other Island connection is Mark Strand who was a few years ago U.S. Poet Laureate. He has been published everywhere. He was born in Summerside! It's true he left here when he was very young and as far as we know has never come back. It would be great to have him come for a reading.

Before April is over I'll share a John Betjamin poem and who by Booke Aster that is wonderful - in my mind.

Go read a poem today.

Written Sunday, April 16, 2000 at 09:20 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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