He was considered one of Canada's preeminent poets, a writer whose verses sang of Canada's natural beauty, whose poems painted pictures of Canadian wilderness that brought pride to a nation. He was also a heartless civil servant, the first superintendent of Canadian residential schools and a deputy minister of Indian Affairs in the early part of the 20th century whose policies targeting First Nations, many believe, meet today's definition of the UN genocide convention. And yet this very same man who had such contempt toward aboriginals became a revered writer and poet.
Humanity is seen to be independent from nature, even above it. This has been the Western vision of the world. In poisoning the earth, we were led on a self-destructive path. But I try to invoke here an alternative vision, expressed by Islamic (Sufi) arts, which finds that the way humanity relates and depends on nature can be renewed once the creative life is reclaimed.
In a country that traditionally does not know its own history, young people are often identified as the main offenders. But this poem is different. It represents something that is ours. Written by a Canadian, learned by Canadians and recited by Canadians. The Vimy Foundation is calling on all Canadian schools to help pass the torch of remembrance by reciting In Flanders Fields.
Teachers: we have this year to write a part for ourselves in a child's life. To write a scene for ourselves in a student's life. To influence a young person, a teenager, a young adult in the writing of their life account. It might seem a small role. But we are crucial in that we are those who can make a difference.
I try to remember to admire the things I love about myself, to flirt if I want to, to smile for no reason at all. I remember that, like Dr. Angelou said, "I have a certain way of being in this world, and I shall not, I shall not be moved." I remember that in the end, always in the end, it's myself I answer to at the end of the day.
Here Warren Kinsella's oft-repeated maxim rings true. In Kinsella's latest book he states that what is true of car crashes is true of political life. When polled, voters will insist they hate negative ads. But when they thinking no one is looking they will slow down, take a look, and remember what they see.
There are so many reasons a literary community remains silent when faced with the unpleasant business of sexism or misogyny: many writers fear the repercussions of speaking out because many of the people who get away with both blatant and subtle forms of hate are also in positions of relative power in the literary community.
I remember meeting an executive at a corporate reception a couple of years ago who was bemoaning the fact that he's just too busy to deal with what he called "the niceties" of peer-to-peer communication. According to him, there just aren't enough hours in the day to swap insignificant comments of courtesy. When he said, "I wish people would just get to the point" it struck such a chord in me that I Tweeted about it, suggesting that maybe he's missing the point:
I first met Wakefield last year during the first People's Poetry Festival. He struck me as a larger than life character with a magnetic energy which compelled people to listen to every word he spoke. In discussions with him he revealed that he had come from Toronto, firstly for love, and secondly for the opportunity to connect with a new audience. He is like a pioneer of sorts in the world of spoken word and has been largely welcomed into its circles in Calgary.
Someone's mother falls to the sidewalk; on the next street someone looks up. In the cathedral, a burst of laughter; in another city the pigeons fly up and scatter. Someone put down in a New York subway a newspaper picked up in Australia. For each event, the inarticulate glory, the equal and opposite, will tell the story.