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This report is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

Two Letters From Canada:Collecting the Bays Roger Burford Mason
I

As in all things in this divided country, poetry too reminds us that Canada had two (the aboriginal peoples vehemently claim three) founding races.

 Consequently, national cultural awards are made to both Anglophone and Francophone competitors in identical measure.

Canada's highest awards for writers are the Governor General's Awards for Literature, given annually in the name of the Queen's titular representative in Canada, currently a former Conservative cabinet minister, Raymon Hnatyshyn.

The 1991 awards for poetry, given at a posh ceremony in Toronto last fall, did not deviate from the bi-lingual requirements of tradition, going to an Anglophone and a Francophone writer who have each put in time and labour at the metaphor-face.

The English-language award went to Don McKay for his collection Night Fields (McClelland & Stewart); the French-language awards to Madeleine Gagnon for Chant Pour un Québec lointain (VLB Editeur/Table Rase, Canada-France).

For McKay, who teaches English and creative writing at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, this is the most acknowledgement his poetry has received despite Night Fields being his seventh collection since 1973.

McKay's poems are meditative, lyrical and evocative, taking as their subject matter 'nature and the common artifacts of life' as the English-language jury put it. They are also metaphysical and robust, reflective and witty, and movingly describe the quotidian struggle we have to draw understanding, and even happiness, from the welter of confused and confusing signals which come ...


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