South of North: Images of Canada by Richard OutramSouth of North: Images of Canada by Richard Outram

South of North: Images of Canada

byRichard Outram

Paperback | October 1, 2007

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A posthumous collection of uncommon plainsong from the poet Richard Outram, with drawings by Thoreau MacDonald.

Outram was born in Canada in 1930. He was a graduate of the University of Toronto (English and Philosophy), and worked for many years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a stagehand crew leader. He wrote more than twenty books, four of these published by the Porcupine's Quill (Man in Love [1985, Hiram and Jenny [1988, Mogul Rec...
Title:South of North: Images of CanadaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:128 pages, 8.75 × 5.57 × 0.51 inPublished:October 1, 2007Publisher:Porcupine's QuillLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889842981

ISBN - 13:9780889842984

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Read from the Book

A year before his death on 21 January 2005, Richard Outram presented the editors with a manuscript of 115 unpublished poems entitled South of North: Images of Canada. The collection was in no particular order. The poems were written in the space of three months in response to a request from the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. To celebrate the Club's ninetieth anniversary in 1998 they had asked him to provide the text of a song cycle commissioned for the composer Srul Irving Gluck. Of the fifty-four poems presented to him, Gluck chose eight, setting them for baritone/mezzo-soprano and piano. The songs were performed with the title of South of North: In Honour of Thoreau MacDonald 1901-1989. Thoreau MacDonald was the son of the Group of Seven's J. E. H. MacDonald, a member of the Arts and Letters Club. Richard had long admired Thoreau's work, maintaining he was the finest graphic artist of them all. He insisted simplicity and restraint are among the most difficult achievements of art. Thoreau agreed, writing of his work, `These pictures are attempts to show the Harmony and Design of Nature in a small space ... as a picture is so limited it is best to eliminate the unnecessary and accentuate the essentials ... they represent more the spirit and feeling of the place and time than outer appearance.' Thoreau's spare, evocative pictures drew from Richard a different aspect of his mastery. The poems are quick, vividly immediate, instant of access. They are the visible, audible delights of a consummate poet's recognition of an artist as passionately involved -- as Richard was himself -- with animals, country and the practical accomplishment of tasks. Both men were deeply grieved by the despoilation of this world. Unable to sort and arrange the poems and choose illustrations to make a coherent manuscript, Richard had many conversations with us about its possibilities. He lived to see a preliminary draught. We selected these poems close to the spirit of Thoreau's pictures by season, vocation and place. Richard was the guiding hand in placing the poems beside those which were their direct inspirations. The last poem was chosen, not for an obvious relation to any illustration, but for its quiet, profound melding in nursery rhyme, of Babylon, that destroyed cradle of civilization, with Canada. It lies on the page as a dignified statement and warning of the extent of the loss occurring around us. `Unless the prevailing misrule is corrected ... a heritage loved and inhabited as such' will be gone. We will not find it again. `Not before dark.'

Editorial Reviews

`Outram's elegant poetics are complemented by MacDonald's evocative graphics, tastefully selected by Anne Corkett and Rosemary Kilbourn, who also provide an informative introduction plus notes on both author and artist. Poems such as Outram's ``Arctic Myth'' evoke complexities of being, creation, and psychic movement over a wind-drift landscape. Travelling from Vancouver to Tantramar, across mountain, foothill, lake country, farmland and wetland, Outram provides a travelogue of sharply focused poetic snapshots charged with immediacy and the breath of a moment, as in ``Dawn'': ``Blinds still down: but thin blue smoke / arrows up from the farmhouse, / Swiftly ribbed light climbs, feral, / up and over the furrowed drumlin. / Beyond the cedars a dog fox coughs. Once. / An axe-blow cracks daybreak.'' The Zen-like precision of these poems extends perceptions of earlier visionaries such as Wallace Stevens.'