Friday 30 March 2007

Milton Acorn would have been 84 years old today

On his birthday, let us remember Milton Acorn and his contributions to Canadian poetry. His was a gigantic, even mythic, presence in our letters. We might suspect he saw himself this way as well. Consider his famous poem "The Natural History of Elephants" which he wrote as a kind of poetic self-portrait.

A wonderful selection of his poems, edited by poet Anne Compton, is in print. The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from the Island is published by Island Studies Press.


Zachariah Wells said...

Happy birthday, you flatulent old pachyderm!

Acorn's one of my very favourite Canadian poets, perhaps in part due to local pride. My dad knew Milton and found him, as most of his friends and acquaintances did, to be a problematic fellow. Or, as he put it to Acorn's biographer, Richard Lemm: "Milton Acorn was a royal pain in the arse." (Oddly, this didn't make it into the bio, tho other statements from my pop did.) Acorn used to show up at my father's door with a fifth of whiskey, wanting to argue politics, a subject in which he was frequently more opinionated than informed. My dad, on the other hand, was a provincial politico, the advisor to premiers Alex Campbell and Joe Ghiz (who helped to fund Acorn's famous Poet's Prize).

It is great that Compton's selection is in print, but it's shameful that M&S, "the Canadian publishers," have let their bigger selection of his work go out of print. He's due for a major critical treatment of his oeuvre, in my opinion.

Paul Vermeersch said...

The M&S selected, with poems chosen by Al Purdy, was indeed excellent. It was part of the Modern Canadian Poets Series that Dennis Lee began when he was poetry editor for M&S. The idea was to keep each title in the series in print indefinitely. I think it's a shame that M&S has allowed the entire series to lapse.