The Unacknowledged Acorn"Beyond Bethune:
People's Poetry and Milton Acorn's Metaphor for the Canadian Fate"
by Terry Barker
review by Chris Faiers
Milton Acorn received Canada's highest literary honour, the Governor General's Award for Poetry, in 1975. A few years earlier a motley congregation of fellow writers, including Margaret Atwood and Al Purdy, had laid the foundation for Acorn's overdue recognition by presenting him with the unique "People's Poet Award" at a disreputable bar on Spadina Avenue.
Terry Barker is an academic who was a longtime friend of Acorn and other practitioners of "people's poetry". Barker, too, is deserving of special recognition for his ongoing contributions to analyzing Canadian poetics - in a time when poets and their art are completely marginalized and ignored.
The essays in Barker's book add up to a full-bodied historical forum on the philosophy, poetics and practice of people's poetry in Canada. Unfortunately, his book is likely too academic, too unhip and obscure to register on more than the most sensitive of antennae.
But the messages Acorn thundered from the ether of the northern lights, the power of the spirit of the true north, strong and free, will be read and intuitively understood by those crucial few vibrating antennae. Barker knows poets are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, the unacknowledged legislators of our age. Terry Barker takes poets and their messages very seriously. In these final years of the American empire, the necessity of an awakened Canadian spirit with a backbone as strong as the Shield are a requirement for our northern survival. Acorn preached this, and every Canadian worth their salt should learn more about Milton Acorn, Canada's People's Poet.
Barker's book will stretch you philosophically, socially, politically, poetically and spiritually. Terry, Uncle Milty the raven shaman, is cawing his thanks!
Beyond Bethune is published by Synaxis Press
37323 Hawkins-Pickle Road
Canada V0M 1H0
174 pages; paperback. $30
Review "The Unacknowledged Acorn" is copyright by Chris Faiers.
Reviewer Chris Faiers received the inaugural "Milton Acorn People's Poet Medal" in 1987. His poetry has been widely published, anthologized and broadcast. Faiers spent a decade as the head librarian in the village of Stirling, Ontario.