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A Course in Miracles

Every Friday evening at 7 pm a group meets for an in depth study and discussion of the text “A Cou [ ... ]

Knitting for Mission

The Anglican Parish of Summerside will once again sponsor their Knitting for Mission group. The grou [ ... ]

Poetry of the Land

Hugh MacDonald and Brent MacLaine edit new anthology

by Lee Ellen Pottie

While the year 2000 was a great year for Island poetry with the publication of books by Brent MacLaine, Richard Lemm, John MacKenzie, and Thomas O'Grady, the year 2001 promises to be even more special with the Spring release of the book, Landmarks-An Anthology of New Atlantic Canadian Poetry of the Land.

Landmarks is the inspiration of three Island poets who, while attending a reading by the Prince Edward Island Writers' Guild, noticed the commonality of the "land" motif in the poems being read. As Hugh MacDonald explains, "Brent [MacLaine] and I, together with Laurie Brinklow, publisher of The Acorn Press, decided that this passion for the land, from an Atlantic perspective, would make a good subject for a poetry anthology."

Poetry about the land is not unusual when one considers nineteenth-century poets such as Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, and Bliss Carman. As Brent points out in his introduction to the book, "Poems about the land are like landmarks because they organize the wilderness of our lives. They orient us. Amid the chaos, confusion, and uncertainties of daily life, poems can show us where and how to find mind. Historically, without landmarks, sailor, explorer, settler, and wanderer alike risked becoming lost." However, considering the usual image of "Atlantic" conjures up the folklorish ideal of lighthouses and lobster traps, fishing boats and granite or red clay cliffs, the concept of the land-based anthology from Atlantic Canada is original.

Consequently, approximately a year ago, Hugh, Brent, and Laurie issued a request for poetry submissions on all a variety of subjects, all relating to land: discovery and settlement, wilderness, women and men of the land, the family farm, the Acadian, English, Celt, and First Nations people, pollution, urbanization, exile and homecoming (to name just a few). And the responses pored in; hundreds according to Hugh. "I was surprised and pleased that people bothered to take us that seriously."

Landmarks is a serious book of poetry by a spectrum of established and new writers. Brent explained that in deciding to organize the anthology, the editors had to draw certain boundaries about whom and what to include, deciding to forgo an historical approach, and limiting the submissions to new and previously unpublished poems. The writers, Atlantic Canadians by birth or adoption, would then present a balanced representation of content according to the suggested themes and the variations thereof.

While the names of the poets in Landmarks are too numerous for this column, Island poets Shauna McCabe, John Smith, Deirdre Kessler, Jane Ledwell, John MacKenzie, and Catherine Matthews are included. Cover artwork is by Island-based artist Julia Purcell.

The anthology's launch, according to publisher Laurie Brinklow, is scheduled tentatively for Atlantic Book Week, May 23 to 26, in the four Atlantic capital cities.

Poetry is Discovery

Profile: Brent MacLaine

by Lee Ellen Pottie

Brent MacLaine

Reports of a new book of poetry being published never make the headlines of the six o'clock news, and hardly ever make a wave outside the small literary circle of poet aficionado/as. But I swear this time is different: Signal Poetry Editions of Vèhicule Press in Montrèal is publishing Wind and Root by Prince Edward Island poet, Brent MacLaine-his first book.

In our long-distance chat, Brent said that he tries to make his poetry "something more natural, spontaneous" and he tries not to repeat either himself or other poets. His poetry shows the many sides to his character and experience in that he uses the academic, rural, and personal within his poetry. He considers himself to be a formal poet working with the tension between formality-line-length, rhythm, and meter-and spontaneity-a "Ginsberg-like," telling of the way it is.

In "Making the Middle Be," the narrator recalls the Island "way of hanging back"; the aversion Islanders have of "making spectacles" of themselves. Reading this poem, most Islanders (or Maritimers for that matter) would recognize the wisdom in and contentment of "arriving late" and "standing up shoulder to the door jamb-/of the back door, the side door,/ the kitchen door-any door, in fact,/ but the front door."

However, don't get the impression that Brent's poetry is "folksy," based solely on the Island rural life. "A Lecture to Time" (quite appropriate for the beginning of the new millennium) is a rant laced with acerbity and irony. The narrator berates "Time" for besmirching children's "shine, the way you smudge/up smiles and darken moods./ In fact, everything you touch goes stale."

Brent MacLaine was born on PEI, and grew up on the family farm in Rice Point. He started off in Commercial Design at Holland College, but moved to the Education Faculty at UPEI, majoring in English Literature. After completing his degree, he went to Australia for a job and a change. Then with the assistance of a Rotary International Scholarship, he obtained a Master of Arts from a university in Norwich, England. From there, Brent went to the University of British Columbia for his PhD. After teaching in Asia, he returned to Prince Edward Island and UPEI where he is now a popular Canadian and Contemporary Literature professor. In 1997-98, he won a faculty teaching award, and in 1999 the student teaching award.

So what does writing mean to Brent now that his first poetry manuscript is about to be published? Writing now means that he does not have to worry about longer projects. As a matter of fact, he has enough poems already written for two manuscripts. But that solves his problem of trying to force himself to write. As he said, sometimes "poetry can't be pushed, and you can't wait for it. Writing is discovery."

Brent has published work in the Fiddlehead, Antigonish Review, Blue Shift, and Matrix. In 1999, he won third prize in the Annual League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Contest. Presently on sabbatical from the UPEI Department of English, Brent is working on an academic book and the final form for Wind and Root, due out in February or March 2000. He lives in Rice Point with his family.

Poetry is Discovery

by Lee Ellen Pottie

Reports of a new book of poetry being published never make the headlines of the six o'clock news, and hardly ever make a wave outside the small literary circle of poet aficionado/as. But I swear this time is different: Signal Poetry Editions of Vèhicule Press in Montrèal is publishing Wind and Root by Prince Edward Island poet, Brent MacLaine-his first book.

In our long-distance chat, Brent said that he tries to make his poetry "something more natural, spontaneous" and he tries not to repeat either himself or other poets. His poetry shows the many sides to his character and experience in that he uses the academic, rural, and personal within his poetry. He considers himself to be a formal poet working with the tension between formality-line-length, rhythm, and meter-and spontaneity-a "Ginsberg-like," telling of the way it is.

In "Making the Middle Be," the narrator recalls the Island "way of hanging back"; the aversion Islanders have of "making spectacles" of themselves. Reading this poem, most Islanders (or Maritimers for that matter) would recognize the wisdom in and contentment of "arriving late" and "standing up shoulder to the door jamb-/of the back door, the side door,/ the kitchen door-any door, in fact,/ but the front door."

However, don't get the impression that Brent's poetry is "folksy," based solely on the Island rural life. "A Lecture to Time" (quite appropriate for the beginning of the new millennium) is a rant laced with acerbity and irony. The narrator berates "Time" for besmirching children's "shine, the way you smudge/up smiles and darken moods./ In fact, everything you touch goes stale."

Brent MacLaine was born on PEI, and grew up on the family farm in Rice Point. He started off in Commercial Design at Holland College, but moved to the Education Faculty at UPEI, majoring in English Literature. After completing his degree, he went to Australia for a job and a change. Then with the assistance of a Rotary International Scholarship, he obtained a Master of Arts from a university in Norwich, England. From there, Brent went to the University of British Columbia for his PhD. After teaching in Asia, he returned to Prince Edward Island and UPEI where he is now a popular Canadian and Contemporary Literature professor. In 1997-98, he won a faculty teaching award, and in 1999 the student teaching award.

So what does writing mean to Brent now that his first poetry manuscript is about to be published? Writing now means that he does not have to worry about longer projects. As a matter of fact, he has enough poems already written for two manuscripts. But that solves his problem of trying to force himself to write. As he said, sometimes "poetry can't be pushed, and you can't wait for it. Writing is discovery."

Brent has published work in the Fiddlehead, Antigonish Review, Blue Shift, and Matrix. In 1999, he won third prize in the Annual League of Canadian Poets National Poetry Contest. Presently on sabbatical from the UPEI Department of English, Brent is working on an academic book and the final form for Wind and Root, due out in February or March 2000. He lives in Rice Point with his family.

Lee Ellen is working on her Masters in English and Creative Writing (with Alistair MacLeod) at the University of Windsor.

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Some Upcoming Events

Light Up the Dark

Confederation Centre holiday show December 14
Homburg Theatre Confederation Centre carries a long t [ ... ]

Together Again

Kenny and Dolly Tribute Concert at the Confederation Centre November 29
Homburg Theatre  On No [ ... ]

Yr. Obedient Servant

An evening with Samuel Johnson  November 22 | November 24
Watermark Theatre | Haviland Club Th [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

A gift of Island poetry: Chris Bailey

Curated by Deirdre Kessler Things My Buddy Said Oh, brother, growing up I’d get into trouble
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A passion for cinema

Laurent Gariépy is screening the classics at City Cinema by Dave Stewart Anyone checking out City [ ... ]

Acadian showman

Profile: Christian Gallant by Jane Ledwell Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at  [ ... ]