Total Pageviews

Sunday, September 22, 2013


For the many years we lived in Grand Forks, B.C. and drove to and from Vancouver, this glimpse of the Similkameen marked a milestone on the journey, the entry to the Boundary country and close to home.
On a bright September morning just recently, we took time to stop and listen to the river. It's a flat, brook-like affair in late dry summer, but a terrifying menace during spring melt, leaving giant trees high up on the beach to remind us that the Similkameen's not just another picnic spot.

Because we took the time, this time, the Similkameen didn't just flash past our eyes, but washed over our souls. Because we listened to the river for once.

And undoubtedly, because of this:

"'-say the names say the names
and listen to yourself
an echo in the mountains
Tulameen    Tulameen
say them like your soul
was listening and overhearing
and you dreamed you dreamed
you were a river
and you were a river...

....Similkameen and Nahanni
say them say them remember
if ever you wander elsewhere
'the North as a deed and forever'
Kleena Kleene    Nahanni
Osoyoos and Similkameen
say the names
as if they were your soul
lost among the mountains
a soul you mislaid
and found again rejoicing
Tulameen    Tulameen
till the heart stops beating 

                                                                        say the names."

                                                                                (from Say the Names, Beyond Remembering, p.579 )

I can't read this poem without hearing George Bowering's powerful voice exhorting us to Say the Names, as he, and three generations of poets, performed this astonishing poem on stage at Koerner Hall during last February's Purdy event.

I like how Al borrowed a line from another poet, who also strove to convey his passion for this country of ours. 'To Hold in a Poem' (1954) by A.J.M.Smith contains the line "the North as a deed and forever" : "To hold in a verse as austere/ as the prairie and river/lonely, unbuyable, dear/the North, as a deed, and forever"

No comments:

Post a Comment