Random Acts of Poetry

By Mike Heenan, Literary Editor, True North Perspective

Dead Poets Live

(At Beechwood Cemetery for Lampman, Scott, Lett, Bourinot, Davin, Osborne ,Campbell)

Yes, there really were Salons,Virginia,
With real, hard Canadian poets,
Right here in Ottawa
On Daly, Elgin, Bank & Lisgar Streets.
Everywhere in town.
Hard by in Richmond, too.

Wordsmiths met and talked
Gov’t. policy, life and art:
Nature, Rivers, wives & kids.

First in Civil Service
First to trek the bush
First to run the Rapids
First to tell hard truths

Came the finest
Poetry in Canada
Of its time.

© Mike Heenan, 2007

Our famous Ottawa “Confederation Poets” (most were born around 1867) were an outstanding group of Civil Servants who spent long hours of outdoor recreation in the bush and on the many Rivers in the Capital area. Accomplished woodsmen and paddlers, they drew their inspiration from the still-beautiful natural surroundings of our fair city and mastered the sonnet form to express their feelings. Lampman’s “In Beechwood Cemetery” remains a classic of the form.

Poor D.C. Scott is currently undergoing a belated excoriation for his Indian Affairs policies, but hindsight is a wonderful/terrible thing in the hands of future generations.
His “Onandoga Madonna” remains one of the finest and most sympathetic portrayals of native life in the 19th century.

Wilfred Campbell was Mackenzie King’s favourite poet and King dedicated a stone bench with bronze portrait of the poet at his graveside in Beechwood Cemetery. Campbell wrote a moving, idyllic poem about The Merivale Road which is unrecognizable today!

Arthur S. Bourinot’s patriotic “Parliament Hill” still stands the test of time as we find our troops fighting and dying in Afghanistantoday.  The poem ends, “Far longer than this height shall scatheless stand/ Shall freedom hold full sway in this our land.”