Wednesday, April 11, 2007

From: The Correspondence of Snook (The Elder)

To Cough O'Hoone, Esq.

Dearest Cough,

I was very glad to have your letter and to hear of young Fat's progress. He'll make a fine doctor, to be sure, and you and Mrs. O'Hoone should be very proud. Indeed, I think that once and for all we've seen that theory of yours disproved--the one about names determining character, I mean. Not only is Fat reasonably thin, he is also literate, fetching in tweeds, and neither sweats nor blushes unduly. He is, it turns out, the very soul of what twits call a well-adjusted young man. So I say: good on him, and you owe me twenty bucks.

Regarding your concern of the lack of Canadian poets lo these last forty years, I think I might be able to shed some light on this.

I know three men all professing to be poets; all under a strong impression that, if they haven't already, they will very soon fill the poet-sized hole in the Canadian cultural landscape. Being fairly evenly distributed across the vast wastes of this country, none of them knows each other (nor, indeed, has any of them even heard of one another), so it is a curious and telling coincidence that they all have this in common: a dog named Carlo.

No, I am not joking. They each own a dog, and they each, quite independently of one another, decided to name it after E.J. Pratt's one-time canine muse.

None of the beasts are Newfoundlanders, of course, as was their namesake. And they are all of differing temperaments (none bearing the least resemblance to the original either). But the outstanding fact remains that their masters were in equal parts so deficient of imagination that they couldn't even outdo one another for derivativeness ... And these are the men that curse you and me and the rest of the Canadian public for our tin ears and our lack of culture! ( ... That an equal share of the same thin slice of mediocrity has become the due of all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms should perhaps give us pause here. Mightn't three mongrel lapdogs named Carlo be the quintessence of poetic expression in contemporary Canada? ... Food for thought, anyway. Or squeaky synthetic squeeze toys for thought.)

What is even more telling is that none of these would-be poets even likes E.J. Pratt. He is apparently (and to use their common phrase) "too colonial." Their collective nod to the man, you see, is then supposed to be a type of very clever joke ... One assumes that they like to kick their Carlos, too, and lock them in the toilet (with the delicious guest soaps and the potpourri) for hours on end whenever the poor creatures happen to give voice.

Now, I don't suppose that every single aspiring poet in the country suffers in exactly the same way as this--trying to disguise a complete lack of ability with this petulant, sitcom-variety irony--but, I think, there is something instructive to be gleaned from the examples of my poet friends. For while it is tempting to blame the apparent non-existence of true poetic temperaments in this country on the stultifying effects, say, of bits of bureaucratic banality like the Charter of Rights and Freedoms--to which, I've noticed, self-styled "poets" are particularly susceptible--it seems to me that, in the end, this is more of an academic problem than an existential one.

What Canadian poets want to realize is that their inspiration should be drawn from archetypes. Rather, that is, from simulacra. Which is to say: if I were poetically minded, and the tyrannical Mrs. Snook allowed me to have a dog--rather than that Nero in cat's clothing, Thomas, that currently fills the role of pet chez Snook--I should name it Argus. After Odysseus's unerringly devoted lookout, who died contentedly upon his dungpile having finally caught sight of his master after twenty long years of waiting. Or, indeed--if the beast bore no resemblance of temperament to that Dog of Dogs--I should simply name him Pete, or Phil, and look to a Rocky Mountain sunset for my inspiration. Leave off dogs altogether.