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Linguistic Structures
by Steven Heighton

BECAUSE I admire the courage and intelligence of Erin Moure's work, I was especially disappointed by her approach to David Manicom's letter of clarification (Books in Canada, April 1989, in reference to Moure's review of Poets 88 in the January?February issue). I was disappointed, and depressed, that an outstanding poet concerned with making language more honest and humane would resort, when fairly challenged, to such tawdry rhetorical tricks. Through her own sloppiness (and no reviewer, especially when pressed for time, is immune to it) Moure misrepresented Manicom, and Manicom, understandably upset at being labelled sexist because of a simple misquotation, wrote a clear and reasonable letter to set the record straight.

Moure's reaction was cynical and insincere. In her response she refuses to acknowledge her error, and glibly implies Manicom is guilty of critical naivete for thinking he could possibly know what he meant to say in the first place.

While Manicorn admits that the latent biases from which none of us is free may now and then slip into his work, I see no reason to think that any such biases are submerged in the syntax of the quoted passage. I can see bow such an allegation would complement the thesis of Moure's review, but I refuse to believe she misread the passage deliberately. I think she made a careless mistake. Perhaps she was skimming the poem. Perhaps she saw what she expected to see.

At any rate Moure's sarcasm ('I'm glad David wrote to make his authorial intention clear for his readers. I still find, alas, that his intentions make for ambiguous results") is neither submerged nor accidental. We might have expected this kind of tone ? sneering, dismissive, and superior ? from a seasoned politician or propagandist, not from a respected artist seeking to challenge and transform inherited linguistic structures and the system of hierarchies they entrench.


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