It's nothing new, and it’s not just our Karl-Rove-esque, culture-bashing Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Canadian Conservative politicians have had it in for the arts for a long time, as poet Al Purdy found out way back in 1981. Below is an excerpt from Purdy’s memoir Reaching for the
Among the poems I wrote in tortoise islands is one about the blue-footed booby, which is perhaps the most slow-witted creature there. It’s not a completely serious poem, which I thought might serve to lighten my customary philosophic solemnity. When “Birdwatching at the Equator” was published in a magazine, a Conservative Member of Parliament noticed it and read it aloud to the Liberal government in the House of Commons in
. His object was undoubtedly to embarrass the Liberals, to say, in effect: “This is the kind of shit you people encourage through Canada Council grants?” OttawaI was completely unaware of this cultural occasion in the legislative chambers. Its later repercussions only came as a surprise to me.
And here is the offending poem. I just love the ending.
Birdwatching at the Equator
The blue-footed boobystands on tropic islandin the Galapagos Groupstands all day longshading her eggs from the sunalso protecting her blue feetfrom too much ultravioletSometimes the male boobyflaps his wings and dancesto entertain his matepointing his toes upwardso they can discuss bluenesswhich seems to them very beautifulTheir only real enemyis the piratical frigate birdfloating on great black wingsabove the mile-long islandSometimes the frigate birdrobs them of their fishwhereupon the boobyis wont to say “Friggit”and catches some moreWhen night comes all the boobiessit down at once as ifGod has given them a signalor else one booby saysto the rest “Let’s flop boys”and they do
The booby’s own capsulecomment about evolution:if God won’t do it for youdo it yourself:stand upsit downmake lovehave some babiescatch fishdance sometimesadmire your feetfriggit:what else is there?
--Al Purdy, 1981. Used with the permission of Harbour Publishing. All rights reserved.