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32 LETTERS IN CANADA 1987 joue au niveau du litb~raire, mais en exploitant l'entite des ressources disponibles: Ie roman cree, fait vivre des espaces inseparables des personnages et de leurs reves. Ainsi Philippe et Albertine vivent-il, dans leur moment d'extreme bonheur, afleur d'un 'pays reel' (268) mais aussi fugitif, ou I'enfance, la mer, Proust et Gaston Miron sont complices d'une vaste imagerie unifiee. Poetry RONALD B. HATCH From Aristotle onwards, virtually all the major aestheticians have assumed that the artist has a special responsibility to reveal the world's hidden patterns. For his sixteenth-century English audience, Sir Philip Sidney offered the definitive restatement of Aristotle, Horace, and Philostratus when he said that the poet should range into the 'divine consideration.of what may be, and should be.' Even when the Romantic revolution in epistemology overturned the earlier conception ofmind and world, poets and critics continued to expect the artist to explore hidden dimensions, especially those within the mind itself. 'Sublimity,' Kant claimed in his Critique ofJudgment, 'does not reside in anything of nature, but only in our mind, insofar as we can become conscious that we are superior to nature within, and therefore also to nature without us.' This Romantic belief in a hidden world of ultimate beauty and value, which somehow remains dependent upon the poet's inner vision, has exerted an enormous influence on Canadian poetry from the nineteenth century to the present. In reading through the collection of Canadian poetry for this past year, one is struck repeatedly by the way in which our finest poets push beyond the diurnal world of everyday life to disclose hidden realms of force and significance. The very title of Gwendolyn MacEwen's new volume Afterworlds (McClelland and Stewart, 125, $9.95 paper) alerts readers that they will not be entering this world of space and time, at least not as it is usually perceived. In MacEwen's world we hear humanity's continuous dialogue with creation down through the ages. People do not exist merely as individuals, but as all mankind over time. MacEwen evokes the sense of a world force dancing through the ages in which 'the particles of light cast off from your hair / Illumine you for this moment only.' Her project, which resembles that of Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Idea, leads her reader behind the momentary illumination of the present to the dancer himself. In order to bring her audience to accept the new vision, MacEwen proceeds first to disorient her reader with frequent addresses to a POETRY 33 mysterious 'you.' While this 'you' might be a friend or lover, he obviously represents much more, since MacEwen says that she is 'trying to track you down / in preworlds and afterworlds.' Only in the volume's final poem, which repeats many of the phrases and lines of the introductory poem, do we learn that 'you' is Lord Siva. As Creator and Destroyer, Siva dances within the darkness to create the world as a ring of fire. After disorienting the reader as to the nature of the dark force propelling both man and the universe, MacEwen leads the reader through a section entitled 'Anarchy,' in which we see our everyday surface world in all its seeming chaos: people pay lip service to the sacred, but continually allow it to be undermined by the banal strictures of everyday life. For example, MacEwen describes women buying ingredients for the feast of Easter, especially the paschal lamb: 'Before the Eastern Orthodox Easter, women / carrying red eggs / Fret and haggle over a pound of Christ.' Turning from the Old World to our own situation in the New, MacEwen indicates that perhaps our way of finding truth lies in the feats of the Niagara Daredevil, Karel Soucek: 'The only way to find out / Who you are / Is to fling yourself into the canyons of your soul/Or walk a thousand miles over rock and snow.' Much in the volume celebrates the violence associated with being: 'Being means breaking the symmetry of the void / So life is not a fearful but a broken symmetry,' The sense of movement is everywhere, and acknowledged as necessary...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 32-49
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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