Writing Activity #1

Find several colour pictures of Canadian scenes such as those available on scenic calendars.

Write two descriptive paragraphs, using as a subject one of the scenic pictures or a remembered scene from your own experience.

  • In the first paragraph use a completely objective approach to your description. Your purpose should be to enable the reader to picture the scene. You should avoid using any language that would provide atmosphere to the scene or in any way influence the reader’s attitude to it.
  • In the second paragraph use a subjective approach, choosing language to create associations in the mind of the reader–associations that will make the scene appear attractive, unattractive, gloomy, threatening, peaceful, barren, or however you wish.

Phyllis Webb, “Fantasia on Christian’s Diary”

Be sure to read carefully the introductory information to this poem.

  1. What is a fantasy? Whose fantasy is described in this poem? Christian’s? The poet’s? Both?
  2. The poem suggests the wanderings of Christian’s mind in the period of privation preceding his death. Can you distinguish the realistic aspects of his thoughts from the fantasy?

F. R. Scott, “Trans Canada” and “W. L. M. K.”

  1. “Trans Canada” is a poem of metaphors. Scott begins by likening the sky, during the ascent of the plane, to a waterfall and later to a “pool of space.” Identify and explain the other metaphors that he uses throughout the poem.
  2. “This frontier, too, is ours.” What frontier? How has the plane altered our life style? Our attitude to nature and to the world around us?
  3. Scott was one of the founders of the C.C.F. party – forerunner of the present N.D.P. Do his political views appear in his estimation of King’s contribution to Canada?
  4. In much of his poetry, Scott is a lively and frequently satirical critic of Canadian life, Canadian political figures, Canadian politics. This trend of thought is obvious in “W.L.M.K.” To what extent is it also apparent in “Trans Canada”?

Charles G. D. Roberts, “The Tantramar Revisited” and “The Peafields”

The Tantramar marshes near Sackville, New Brunswick, consist of an area of swampy land protected from the sea by old Acadian dikes. The land is fertile hayland, filled with wildlife.

Both of these poems are descriptions of what the poet sees, but the picture he paints is warmly personal and reflects both the atmosphere of the scene and the poet’s relationship with it. Examine the diction and pay particular attention to the connotations of the words he uses. Consider the figures of speech, the sensory appeal, the slow-moving rhythm. Discuss the way in which these devices combine to create mood and atmosphere for each poem.

Al Purdy, “The Country North of Belleville”

  1. Purdy refers to the country north of Belleville as “the country of defeat.” Who is defeated there? By what?
  2. He says that the young leave the country quickly, “unwilling to know what their fathers know / or think the words their mothers do not say-” What do their fathers know? What is it that their mothers do not say?
  3. The end of the poem suggests that returning visitors will not find friends, or even remembered townships in this country. Why do you think they would go back there?

John Newlove, “The Pride”

  1. Carefully read through the poem and summarize the thought of each section in a sentence or two. Note how Newlove covers briefly the history of settlement in the west.
  2. Newlove says, “the indians / are not composed of / the romantic stories / about them, or of the stories / they tell only.” What else is part of them?
  3. Notice how Newlove’s description of the country changes from “a desolate country” in part one, to “the plains are bare, / not barren” in part four. Does his attitude to the native people change, too?
  4. It is commonly accepted that white settlers, invading the world of the Indian, imposed their own culture on the native people and rejected that of the Indian. Newlove says instead, “they become our true forbears . . . we are their people, come back to life.” In what sense are they our forbears? What common background of experience do we have?
  5. Explain the significance of the title. To what pride does it refer? The pride of the Indian? Of the white people? A pride in a heritage that is common to both?

Patrick Lane, “Cariboo Winter” and “Elephants”

  1. What factors are usually taken into consideration in planning the route of a highway? Do you think the highway would have been rerouted if the engineers who planned it had known about the Indian graveyard? Was the graveyard destroyed deliberately or did it just happen to be in the way?
  2. The highway is a part of white culture; the graveyard a part of Indian culture. Does the effect of the highway on the graveyard suggest something about the impact of white culture on that of the Indian? What aspect of each culture do you think the graveyard and the highway might symbolically represent?
  3. Compare Lane’s “Cariboo Winter” with Bowering’s “Mud Time.” Note the similarities in content and in form. What sensory impressions does Bowering use to create his atmosphere? How do these differ from the sensory impressions in Lane’s poem?

George Bowering, “Prairie” and “Mud Time”

  1. What is it that Bowering finds “absurd” about the city skyline? Why?
  2. Examine the details in Bowering’s “Mud Time.” If you were to write a similar poem about this, or another season, what details would you choose to create the feeling you have into the poem? (Remember that a good poem uses only as many words as are necessary to achieve its effect.)
  3. Note how Bowering’s final statement suggests the atmosphere of spring as he feels it. How could you end your poem to suggest your feelings?