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Saturday, 5 July 2014

my Amazon review of Flint & Feather (Charlotte Gray's biography)

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars then Purdy's best friend, Milton Acorn July 5 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a book every Canadian should read. Biographer Charlotte Gray reminds us that in Pauline Johnson's time a century+ ago, there was still the fading hope that the 'settlers' of Canada and the First Nations peoples could create a nation based on sharing and trust.

Pauline Johnson tried to straddle the divide between being half settler, with an English-born mother, & a father who was a Mohawk chief. Her parents encouraged their children to give equal value to both cultures, which Pauline tried to exemplify with her poetry. Pauline's poetry has been in & out of favour several times, & thanks in large part to Gray's fascinating biography, Pauline Johnson's poetry is again finding a new & intrigued audience.

I help organize an annual summer gathering of Canadian poets, & we've been working our way back through the history of Canada's "People's Poets" by studying the leading lights of this movement. Our symposiums started with a discussion on the life & legacy of "The Voice of Canada", poet Al Purdy. The next summer we featured Ted Plantos, then Purdy's best friend, Milton Acorn. We've reviewed the legacy of Raymond Souster, and last year we honoured Dorothy Livesay. This summer we are honouring the life & legacy of Pauline Johnson.

There was some initial questioning in our gathering over the validity of claiming Pauline Johnson as a People's Poet. After reading Gray's biography, there is no question in my mind of the seminal influence of Johnson on Canadian poetry. Pauline Johnson was an early advocate for First Nations issues, a proto-feminist, and a true trooper, in that she earned her living for well over a decade by giving public poetry recitals in venues as varied as barrooms to chic Victorian parlours.

Charlotte Gray's bio of Pauline is painstakingly researched, & yet she has managed to write Pauline's story in an incredibly readable style. One night I began reading late, anticipating a half hour session at most. When I glanced at the clock, I'd been reading until 3 AM, and it was with reluctance that I let the book fall next to me as I finally drifted into sleep with dreams of canoeing with Pauline ; )

Read this book and you'll be a better person and a better Canadian!

(I parallel read Pauline's complete works while enjoying the historical narrative of her life as carefully detailed by Charlotte Gray.)

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On 2014-07-05, at 12:25 PM, Charlotte Gray wrote:

This is wonderful, Chris. Many thanks!
I'm busy with a big history project right now, but I'll think seriously about your poets!
Sent from my iPhone

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Thanks, Charlotte  ;  )
As Pauline might have put it, 'booming' is just a part of the poetry business. I hope you will write a joint bio on Milt & Big Al. So far as I know, there isn't a bio on Al, altho there are at least 2 or 3 already on Milt. Of course Purdy wrote the start of his own history with his auto bio SPLINTER IN THE HEART.

best wishes on the current project - it sounds major!

peace & poetry power!
Chris .. & Chase Wrffffffffffffffffff!  (we were halfway out the door on the way to ZRG, but remembered to check my machine to turn it off & got your kind note)

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