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?

Milton Acorn, “The Island”

  1. What does the simile in the first stanza suggest about the social atmosphere of Prince Edward Island?
  2. Acorn says that “nowhere is there a spot not measured by hands.” How does this suggest the size of the island? What contrast is implied by the “beaches that roar”?
  3. Explain the phrase “any wonder your eyelashes are wings to fly your look both in and out.” What do you see when you look in? What do you see when you look out?
  4. Explain the image “in the fanged jaws of the Gulf, / a red tongue.” What Gulf? What colour is the soil of Prince Edward Island?