Milton Acorn Robin Endres - Essay

Robin Endres

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The title of [More Poems for People] is from Poems for People by Dorothy Livesay, to whom it's dedicated, and who "began in this book the tradition of Canadian poets who dedicated their poems and their lives to the working class."… It consists of 47 poems, one prose allegory "The Garbageman is Drunk", and two essays, "On Not Being Banned by the Nazis" … and "What are the Odds?" (a discussion of the possibilities and tactics of resistance should the American Empire invade Canada). Over two thirds of the poems are explicitly political…. Some, like "The Schooner Blue Goose" and "The Microscopic Army Ants of Corsica" are witty political allegory. There are also about a half dozen love lyrics, and an equal number of poems about poetry and the craft of writing.

When Acorn views the Canadian landscape … it isn't a barren wasteland of unnamed horrors, but a land inhabited by the people who work it—miners, Indians, northern Québécois. And there's more than a semantic difference between seeing these people as victims and seeing them as the exploited producers of surplus value in our resource-extracted economy. Some of the landscape or nature poems which don't describe people seem deceptively lyrical, out of place in this book, because of their quite different calm and meditative tone. Actually, Acorn is making a political point in a poem such as "The Mine is Also of Nature":

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(The entire section is 455 words.)