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Gwendolyn MacEwen is a celebrated Canadian novelist and poet who led a conflicted, rather short life and sought to find answers in realms outside of her own immediate space. Her volume entitled The T E Lawrence Poems explores the world of the much-admired Lawrence of Arabia - T E Lawrence. His own work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, had a great influence on her. She was fascinated by the desert and felt a strong connection to Lawrence himself, having read his Seven Pillars of Wisdom as a teenager. MacEwen even modifies her own style having recognized a rather awkward rhythm in Lawrence's poetry which she seeks to overcome.
MacEwen identifies with Lawrence and his way of thinking. She is basically obsessed with him and his Middle-Eastern cultural experiences. By almost becoming him in her collection of poetry, she can resolve some of her own issues. Her real world becomes a better place when she can make the connection between what is real and concrete and what exists on a conscious but abstract, even mythical, level. The real world is too stark and difficult for MacEwen to wholly relate to. History and culture play enormous roles in defining her by her own admittance and Lawrence allows her to explore the side of herself she is most comfortable with. MacEwen's dysfunctional family resonates in this collection as Lawrence also had an interesting background and the poems in the collection expose contentedness but also an unresolved, even woeful, past. "The reckless Bedouin and the civilized Englishman," from Apologies, reveal the confusion that sometimes accompanies expression. In Ali, there is a distinct acceptance which is consistently alluded to in the collection that there is a far greater domain; "we were brothers just visiting the world."
Had MacEwen used a third person narrative, she would not have been able to absorb herself totally in this collection and accept Lawrence's experiences as if she herself had had some part in them. She admits that her purpose in writing this collection in the first person was to fulfill her own need to go one step further than Lawrence ever did and to relish the mystery that exists in the desert setting.
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