Thursday, November 10, 2005

for discussion

In the face of the conservative politics rampant in Alberta, & the cultural embracing of rurality, geography, & place, there is a coterie of poets in Calgary whose work rejects these aspects in favour of what Sianne Ngai categorizes as a “poetics of disgust.”(98) These poets — as typified in the work of Jordan Scott & ryan fitzpatrick (& others loosely gathered around filling Station & dANDelion magazines) — push against the modernist tropes of ‘prairie poetry’ in favour of a more urban, linguistically disruptive form that can articulate the dissatisfaction with the politics being forwarded in historically ‘typical’ representations of Alberta.

In Surviving the Paraphrase, Frank Davey argues against poetry used as “a tool employed not for its own intrinsic qualities but for the _expression of ideas & visions” (2), opposing a poetic based on “messianic attempts to define a national” — & in this case, a regional — “identity” (3). ‘Prairie poetry,’ a form promoted as representative of Albertan writing, concentrates through lyrical humanism on the rural experience, a dependence on geography & a concentration on familial history as a means of concreting regional _expression. Despite Robert Kroetsch’s claim that Canadian poetry did not have a Modernist period — that it slid directly from Victorianism to Post-Modernism (111) — prairie poetry’s concentration on the romanticism of settlement & exploration, & on presence & narrative belies an underlining linguistic support of a type of manifest destiny. To write of geography; “the lovely new land / where we now stand” (McKinnon 15) in Alberta, & especially in Calgary — is to endorse an ideological support for economic growth & expansion, & a reiteration of the dependence on oil & gas resources. Calgary — with an estimated population of 1.2 million — popularly represents itself though its rural ties (the white stetson, the Calgary Stampede, the Pengrowth Saddledome), by oil & gas revenue & by right-wing politics; all of which foreground Calgary as a traditional, conservative, basically rural environment.


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