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Monday, April 30, 2012

Review of book by Prof. Ron Dart

IN A SPRINGTIME INSTANT: The Selected Poems of Milton Acorn 1950 - 1986Edited by James Deahl

Mosaic Press, Oakville, Ontario, 2012
248 pages   $24.95
ISBN 0-88962-921-9

Milton Acorn (1923-1986) was the most dynamic, controversial and prophetic Canadian Anglican political poet in the latter half of the 20th century. Acorn was a poet who spoke to the people of Canada and did so in an accessible and not to be forgotten manner. The fact that Acorn was awarded, by significant Canadian poets, the Peoples Poet Award in 1970 and the GG Award in 1975 speaks its own convincing language. Who was this poet who offended the trendy left by taking a definite stand on the Pro-Life issue yet offended the political right by opposing capitalism, militarism and American imperialism? Who was this unique Canadian nationalist who flirted with the ideological left but when day was a done was a conscious Red Tory? Who was this High Church Anglican that was convinced that the purpose and end of the grandeur of the liturgy was justice and peace in the streets and for the working class people? Who was this herald and pioneer in the 1950s of the ecological movement?

The time has finally come, and it is quite appropriate that the time has come, for a return and retrieval of the poetry of Milton Acorn. The publication of Milton Acorn: In A Springtime Instant: Selected Poems has appeared on the literary and publishing scene at just the right time, and the editorial work and Introduction by James Deahl (who lived with Acorn for a few years and published some of his poetry), makes this updated approach to Acorn a real keeper.   

The incisive ‘Introduction’ by Deahl is a fine primer to the selected poems. The Introduction lights but does not land long on ‘The Great Generation’, ‘Poetry of the Natural World’, ‘The Art of Love’, ‘Ideology’, ‘What I Know of God’, ‘Fellow Writers’ and an informed ‘Conclusion’. I might add that Terry Barker wrote a timely ‘Foreword’ that briefly explained the origin of In A Springtime Instant.

Deahl has, wisely so, in his editorial role, guided the poetic ship of the book across the full waters of Acorn’s life and writing. Poems are judiciously chosen from Acorn’s earliest book of poetry, In Love and Anger (1956) to Acorn’s midstride classic I’ve Tasted My Blood: Poems 1956 to 1968 (1969), the later books of poetry that were published in his lifetime and the books of poetry that were published after his death. The collection, rightly so, is arranged chronologically and separates wheat from chaff, gold from dross in Acorn’s poetic journey. Deahl has dug deep into the motherlode of Acorn’s poetic output, and has brought back the finest of Acorn from his diligent spade work.

Milton Acorn: In A Springtime Instant is Acorn the poetic and probing genius at his challenging best. The Northern Oak of Acorn stands tall and stately, high above the lesser trees of much Canadian poetry, and the meticulous work of James Deahl, Terry Barker and Howard Aster (Mosaic Press) amply illustrates why this is the irrefutable case. We await, with much anticipation, the publication in 2013, from Mosaic Press, the book of critical essays on Acorn.          

Prof. Ron Dart

April 27, 2012

IN A SPRINGTIME INSTANT: The Selected Poems of Milton Acorn

 IN A SPRINGTIME INSTANT: The Selected Poems of Milton Acorn 1950 - 1986

 Edited by James Deahl

 Mosaic Press, Oakville, Ontario, 2012

 248 pages   $24.95

 ISBN 0-88962-921-9


 In the book's forward Terry Barker details the genesis of this selected of
 Canada's People's Poet, Milton Acorn. A chance meeting between Barker and
 poet Joe Rosenblatt at a Toronto Book Fair several years ago had the two of
 them reminiscing about Milt, who died a quarter century ago. Both of them
 felt that Acorn's legacy was fading - in the academy, and among the always
 fickle and ephemeral Canadian audience for poetry.

 And so the two of them acted very unCanadian - they DID something, and the
 result is this lovingly and painstakingly researched 250 page tribute. The
 only logical choice for an editor was Acorn's longtime friend and roommate,
 James Deahl. As I believe there is no better person in Canada to encapsulate
 the life and creative arc of Canada's many fine poets, this was a perfect
 match of editor and subject.

 Howard Aster and his Mosaic Press were approached with this proposal, and
 fortunately he was most willing.

 Perhaps editor and poetry selector James Deahl knows Acorn's poetry better
 even than the poet himself did. Deahl's friendship with Milt helped sustain
 the vulnerable poet for several decades, and on Milt's passing in 1986 Deahl
 became the torch bearer for Milt's work and legacy. Deahl has continued to
 advocate for Acorn's work, and to produce a substantial number of posthumous
 collections of Milt's poetry and the tribute anthology THE NORTHERN RED OAK.

 Resurrecting Acorn's Literary Merit

 The poems were chosen by editor Deahl solely based on his perception of
 their literary merit. Barker and Deahl echo each other's belief that Acorn's
 poetry was and is often under appreciated or even dismissed because of the
 poet's controversial political and personal life. They hope that after 25
 years people are prepared to objectively and critically re-evaluate the
 entire body of Acorn's work, with hopes that the Canadian literary
 establishment will take another look and add Milt's poetry to the textbooks
 and curricula of our  institutions. Deahl's thoughtful and challenging 22
 page introduction should ably serve as the catalyst for this crucial
 literary rebalancing and the long awaited and deserved 'resurrection' of
 Milton Acorn.

 Poetry As Catalyst Against Reactionary Harperite Miasma

 This is also a crucial time for Canadians politically. The spreading
 reactionary miasma of the Harperite regime must be countered on the cultural
 front. Our ineffectual politicians appear neutered by the challenge, and
 perhaps only the "love and anger", the visceral physicality of the poetry of
 a People's Poet of Acorn's caliber, can act as a catalyst to stir the
 Canadian populace to outrage at Stephen Harper's highjacking of our nation.

 The Poems

 Deahl has done something a bit unusual with organizing the poems - he has
 presented them in the order in which they appeared in Acorn's 17
 collections. Thus early and late poems don't appear in the chronological
 order in which they were written. Deahl justifies this with his declaration
 that Acorn wrote excellent poems throughout his entire career, and as a
 reader I found this mix of the old and the new an intriguing and enjoyable

 After a week reading the book backwards and forwards, or just diving in
 where the pages fell open late at night, I was amazed at how many of Acorn's
 poems I recognized and had taken to heart so many decades ago. And I was
 equally surprised at how many poems I was reading for the first time, and
 how these immediately adhered to my heart and brain like so many welcome

 Congratulations to James Deahl for his perseverance as the number one
 scholar of Canada's most important and vibrant poet. And thanks to Howard
 Aster and the staff at Mosaic Press for this wonderfully produced
 collection. Special acknowledgments must go to Terry Barker, the 'midwife'
 of this project, and to Joe Rosenblatt, who also helped will this collection
 into being.

 Reflective review by Chris Faiers

April 25, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tammy and student

ABC’s & Rice

Tammy Durand is an extraordinary young woman who is making a difference in this world.  She is originally from Sudbury, Ontario and majored in Psychology while in college.  For many years, she worked in Canada and the United States for various companies who were in the Transport and Logistics business.

One of her dreams was to travel to Thailand which she achieved. However, she took a side trip to Cambodia on her first trip to that area and saw a flyer advertising an organization, which helps the underprivileged.   She extended her stay to research the situation there and began to make plans for a return visit.

In 2010, she founded ABC’s & Rice.  The vision of this organization is to facilitate the empowerment of the poor to break the cycle of poverty.  She and her life partner, Matt Foote, an Australian, work in the small village of Poom Sala and Kroligne , which is 3 km from the town center of Siem Reap.  Due to the extreme poverty of the people, many families are unable to pay to educate their children. In an attempt to get at least some of their children educated, one or more of the remaining children have to work. 

She was warmly welcomed by the people and they have a high respect for the work of ABC’s & Rice as well as for herself and Matt.

The programme employs 6 Khmer teachers and 4 center support workers,.  There are over 180 students and their families, who rely heavily on help from generous volunteers and donors.

The students range from 4 years of age to 16.The curriculum includes Khmer reading, writing, cultural and morals programme, English studies, art and sports.  They also provide personal support and development to the children and their families, including medical and dental care for the children.  Support for their work comes mainly from private donors and from fundraising done in Canada

Her motivation is the belief that every child deserves the access and right to education, healthy sustenance, and a safe environment.

For those who are not very familiar with Cambodia, the area where she and Matt work is a comparatively small tropical city, which only gets “cool” anywhere between December and February.  The wet season is sticky, when it is not raining and there is always flooding.  Last year the city was fully flooded for six weeks.

As a point of interest, one can find spitting cobras, vipers, scorpions and some spiders and in fact, both Tammy and Matt have had more than their share of bites by Brown Recluse spiders whose venom has the potential to kill. 

Tammy works two part time jobs to support herself as well as the project and an average work day for her is 17-18 hours.  She tries to take some time off on a Sunday, however, her laptop is always with her.

“The future of ABC’s & Rice?

 “In a nutshell, I plan on developing it into a self-sustaining model that can be used virtually anywhere, run for and by native Cambodians.” says Tammy in a recent interview.

For more information on how you can help this worthy cause, please visit

\Some of the students

Matt Foote

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Albert Magsuci


In One Silhouette Night

I am walking alone
the roads are deserted
shops are all closed
just a few cars passing
the whine of tires deafens my ears.

These once busy streets look ghostly
as if time had stopped
only the amber light atop a lamppost
outshines the silhouette of the wintry night.

A long night of walking
I feel so alone, the moon obscured
silence surrounds me
only my shadow dances to my gait
in the dead of night.

Albert Magsuci

Editors Note:  Due to the political problems in the Arabic speaking world, people do not go out at night as much as they did before.  The noise from the few cars on the road is very pronounced and they seemed, to the poet, to be in a dreadful hurry.  In Bahrain, Albert has said that things have gone back to normal and at this time, there are more people on the streets.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Hope Offering

Offering prayer, as hope,
the flame is lit from a wick
upon a measured amount
of oil...

Then, one may surmise:
that hope may be consumed
by time....

But, “hope”
burns as a
consuming flame,
emitting traces of its essence
as an element
of wafting vapor...
by which the fragrance
of it's intended message
may be inhaled, as a healing spice
to ease the heart
and subdue
the restless, wavering mind.

May this Sweetgrass
be wafted
as a purifying manna
from the heart of one who prays
for the Greater Hope
that is Offered for the Healing
of these darkened days.

Martha Meshberg/Copyright ©2002