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To the Editor
Charles Lillard

I was very disappointed in the review of Charles Lillard's splendid Shadow Weather (May) and wondered at the wisdom of pairing up such a passionate, bracing collection of poetry with a reviewer so obviously ill-equipped to understand it.

The first clue to Shadow Weather, apart from the title, is the cover, Elton Bennett's "Rain on the River". Birds on logs, huddled into their feathers in hard rain, everything muffled by weather; each element is integral to the composition. These are poems of atmosphere, evocations of a time and place deeply known and held dear in memory. They are not, as Eric Ormsby would have us believe, written for a select few or out of "an almost tribal elitism". That is plain silly.

Plain silly, too, is Mr. Ormsby's fussy insistence on spending great lengths of time castigating Lillard for using words which the reviewer can't find in his unabridged dictionary. Anyone familiar with the coast could have told him that "chuck" meant water, usually salt water, and anyone who's ever had a picnic by the shore has probably made a cuddy in a tide pool to cool a bottle of wine. "Corn in the billy" and "floatcamps" and "stray lines" are hardly technical terms but colloquialisms, everyday speech in many areas of the coast. Mr. Ormsby needs to read more, and not just his unabridged dictionary.

The reviewer accuses Lillard of "one-upmanship", telling us that "the author is, in effect, using out-of-the-way locutions to show how knowing he is, at the expense of the reader." To my mind, this is unfair in the extreme. Shadow Weather is full of wonderful poems so deeply rooted to their locale that an astute reader shares the experiences of first a boy, then a man, and finally a father and husband, taking the time to find his place in the world and then fiercely remembering what it was to be alive in "our geography, this Pacific terrain."

Mr. Ormsby concludes his review by quoting from "Closing Down Kah Shakes Creek", ruefully noting that "one wants to forgive Lillard much because of such beautiful passages." Charles Lillard doesn't need forgiveness from Mr. Ormsby, or anyone else for that matter. He's left us with a body of intelligent, resonant work and he deserved a review which spent less time fussing over whether or not the words were in the dictionary and more time engaging the actual poetry. To echo Charles Lillard, in his lovely poem "Petroglyph at Tidemark",

I think this shaman was so filled with seeing

he left his living an inch-deep in stone.

In this remote cameo set in rock,

the faith that guided his hands

still prowls the circular depths of this

otterwhale's eye.

Theresa Kishkan

Madeira Park, B.C.

Not Amused by Multicult

Has Professor Forbes ("My American Problems & Ours", June) decided to migrate from the frail tradition of Canadian political thought to the robust tradition of Canadian humour? He should think again.

His analysis of the history of Canadian anti-Americanism and Professor Granatstein's treatment of it is thoughtful and lucid, with some mean-spirited lapses: "Ontario's rancid loyalism". But his proposals for a positive Canadian identity are ludicrous.

He wants to start with multiculturalism. The cultures that multiculturalism seeks to pickle in Canada are all the products of other particular times and places. In their persistence now and here they deny Canada's time and place. From multiculturalism Professor Forbes proceeds, after casually giving away half of the country to the autochthones, to a rigorous racialism: quotas, disingenuously called "firm numerical targets" for everything including party nominations; a totalitarian Human Rights Commission, which might as well appoint our legislators once it has chosen the candidates, rigorously enforcing correct political thought and social behaviour; bilingualism superseded by multilingualism and Quebec's impertinent nationalism swamped by allophone immigrants: a new Lord Durham.

Professor Forbes's Canada would not engage the passionate commitment of Canadians; unless it were the kind of ethnic chauvinism seen lately in the former Yugoslavia. Revulsion is more like it.

In the end Professor Forbes is a prisoner of the anti-Americanism he wants to transcend. He fancies that his brave new Canada will allow us to be more openly critical of Americans and bask in a strong sense of moral superiority. "We could even demand the release of their `political prisoners'." Shades of James Endicott.

The basis for a confident and friendly relation to Americans, as Professor Forbes abstractly understands, is knowing ourselves. But having spent most of his career in trying to understand Canada, he seems to have concluded that here is nothing worth knowing and that we should begin anew. Nothing that he proposes has its roots in the Canadian political thought that he has collected and taught. He seems to hold it in contempt.

Canada is an historic country. It cannot be invented. Loyalism and tradition must be part of it. Professor Forbes's proposals would be the death of Canada. Where they are not just silly, they are heavily influenced by American academic trends. And they are not funny.

John T. Pepall


A Renewal

Books in Canada provides one of the most nourishing general accounts of what is being published here for a wide range of interests, and of some resulting opinions or reactions. The informed or eloquent usually well outweigh the wrong-headed, the rude, or the irrelevant. Tone, range, and length are engaging, as in April's. Echoes of the Idler's voice, and the present format (including the paper itself), are also welcome features.

Jeremy Palin

Nepean, Ont.


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