Saturday, July 11, 2009

Civil Elegies

On Friday, July 10th, I went to hear Canadian poet Dennis Lee read his 1972 work, Civil Elegies, as part of The Scream Literary Festival.

At the event, If Hope Disorders Words, Lee read Civil Elegies in its entirety (and it was the first time he had publicly done so - or maybe the first time since its original publication - I'm not sure).

The poet Jacob McArthur Mooney did a wonderful introduction of Lee, and has also written an essay for Open Book about Civil Elegies where he calls it "the saddest book in the history of Canadian letters". (You can also read an excerpt of the essay on poet Paul Vermeersch's blog.)

Before the event I read some of Lee's work - mostly from Un and YesNo, and it was powerfully musical and energetic. There was an intensity - even a violence to some of the lines, yet Lee read them with a much slower, quieter voice (than I had) which gave them a more lyrical quality and tone. It was lovely. Check his books out if you like your language twisted and wrenched, and moving.

As a bonus, here are some poems by Paul Vermeersch and some poems by McArthur Mooney.

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