Sunday, 8 February 2015


Two topics that have also been very popular in many Canadian poems and stories:

1) relationships to fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, children, siblings, etc
2) remembering (lost) family members

Please select two or more poems or other texts that fall in one of the two categories and compare them with each other.

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  1. Gone Away

    An Angel whispered
    take my hand and
    come with me
    you're work here is done.

    I went away to a place
    where there's no tears, nor sorrow
    only laughter and smiles,
    there will always be a Tomorrow.

    As I move amongst the clouds.
    I'll look down and smile upon you,
    while the angels
    sing a heavenly song.

    I am not alone
    all who went before
    are here
    they awaited my return.

    I know you'll grieve
    and wish I was still here
    I am here in the memories
    you hold dear.

    Remember how much I
    love you
    and know I took your
    love with me.

    I did not wish for
    you to cry, nor feel sad.
    My pain is gone and
    I am Free!

    Soon you'll come to me
    until then
    God will be with you
    Just as He's with me.

    Family Friend Poems

    In Heaven With My Son

    Behind the stars in the sky
    In the heavens up above
    My Dads big truck is starting up
    Two of us angels in the front

    As we move up through the gears
    Just smiles and love, no tears
    Life's worries have all gone
    Just quality time for a father and his son

    As heaven is all around us
    Johnny Cash sings our favourite songs
    No rush, no time, no deadlines
    We're back where we belong

    We laugh and talk of old times
    And how special they have been
    The view from here in heaven
    Is like nothing we've ever seen

    And although we miss our loved ones
    We'll pray to keep you strong
    and we'll wait at heavens gates
    for when you come along

    Family Friend Poems

    "In Heaven With My Son," talks about being about to do things we enjoy in the after life. The father is driving his big truck and Johnny cash is singing to them. Although their time on earth is over, it does not mean that they have to leave everything behind.
    In "Gone Away" an angel leads the deceased to heaven. In heaven, the narrator does not feel pain. Although he or she may miss loved ones of earth, they are comforted because there will be a day where they will reunite.
    Both poems speak of a better place after we pass. They talk about how great heaven is with no tears and lots of laughter. There are angels in heaven. The deceased think about their loved ones.

  2. I chose two poems, “The Shadow of the Cross” by John McCrae and “Habitation” by Margaret Atwood. McCrae writes about a curious angel who desires to know whether “is there good or ill in the mad world's heart”. After searching kingdoms and streets, he finds all these to be full of hate. However, he finally spots goodness in humankind, in the heart of a mother and starving child in an old attic. Though poor and equally as hungry as the child, the mother forfeits her share of food in order that the child can be fed. On the other hand, Atwood speaks about a marriage in another light, rather than in a romanticised ideal way. Instead, she writes that marriage is something much more base and raw, like the cold elements of a glacier. Yet she seems to end the poem with a hopeful tone, writing “we are learning to make fire” suggesting perhaps, marriage is something that one has to work and strive towards in order for it to succeed.

    At first glance, these two poems are significantly different from one another. While one poem discusses the true love between a mother and child, the other describes a primitiveness and a more emotional account of marriage. However, the common characteristic between both these poems is the topic of sacrifice. McCrae’s poem speaks of a sacrifice of a mother to her child. Many of us could consider this to be a granted act, a responsibility the mother is merely fulfilling, and I don’t think it was an easy decision to make nevertheless, especially these days we read so often about children being abandoned. Indeed, the same could be argued about Atwood’s poem. Perhaps it is through their communal sacrifice and struggle that they do not give up their fight and eventually learn and strive to survive. These poems teach us to be thankful to embody these characteristics and we should learn from the poems about love.

    Poems: and

  3. Mordecai RIchler, my favourite Canadian author, came from a cultural and familial background somewhere outside of the normal mosaic of Canada. As a Jewish writer from Montreal, RIchler was often separate from the Anglo-French divide, this allowed him the ability to comment on different, oft-overlooked, aspects of Canadian identity. His work often focuses on the stagnant claustrophobia he experienced in such a separate and distinct culture as the Jewish community in Montreal. He, of course, relayed his information through fictional Jewish families in working-class Montreal. I believe that due to the small size, as well as the horrendous actions against them, the Jewish community in Montreal, according to RIchler, had an almost xenophobic worldview. Richler then communicated this xenophobia through a restrictive and domineering family. This is exemplified by the Communist/Right-wing divide that separated families in his novel "Son of a Smaller Hero."

    I believe this cultural xenophobia is also evident in "The Jade Peony", in that the family the novel is centred around is also from a minority group that had many horrendous actions committed against them. I believe that the basis of the conflict between family members also comes from a fundamentally political realm of discourse within family life; namely, the tension between the Chinese and Japanese communities, as well as the "white"/Chinese conflicts.

    I believe that both of these novels display how, in Canada, a prominent difficulty within minority groups familial relations is that of the political realm. In that generationally, different family members do not experience the same sort of subjugation from the "dominant" group in society, it is hard for the other to understand the Political beliefs of those subjugated against. This then causes tension within the family that is very difficult to reconcile due to the varying cultural influences imposed upon different generations.

  4. When remembering lost family members, it is always nice to take solace in the belief that our loved ones are still around. Seeing them in the rain, in a rainbow, in a breeze, or in the beauty of the world around, helps solidify that they are still with us to some extent. These two poems, “I am the Gentle Autumn’s Rain,” by an anonymous author, and “Feelings,” by Sandra Woodridge, both cement this point of view and bring words of comfort when faced with loss.

    "I am the Gentle Autumn’s Rain" by Anonymous

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there, I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow,
    I am a diamond glint on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you waken in the morning hush,
    I am the swift uplifting rush.
    Of quiet birds in circling flight,
    I am the soft starlight at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and weep,
    I am not there, I do not sleep.

    "Feelings" by Sandra Woodridge

    No more your face to look upon,
    Or your beautiful smile to see.
    Though deep inside my heart I know,
    You still reside with me.

    When the sun casts down its golden rays,
    That’s when I see your smile.
    Then raindrops fall just like my tears,
    And my heart aches for a while.

    A rainbow in the sky appears,
    with a beauty of its own.
    And on the breeze I hear your voice,
    it whispers you’re not alone.

  5. Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" is one poem that deals with familial relations, specifically between father and child. On the surface, a child and his/her drunk father are dancing together in a seemingly innocent scene. You could also have a darker interpretation of the poem that sees an abusive dad with an alcohol problem. William Wordsworth's "We Are Seven" is another poem that has themes regarding family but it deals with remembering lost family members. The speaker meets a girl and asks about her siblings. She replies that there are seven of them including her but later reveals that two have died. The speaker insists that there aren't seven anymore but according to the girl, there are still seven of them.

    While both poems are about family, they also share a similar theme that plays on the idea of perspectives. "My Papa's Waltz" challenges the perspective of the reader. Does the reader choose to view the events in the poem as innocent ones in a fully functional family or does it seem to be a dysfunctional family dealing with more grim events? "We Are Seven" explores the perspectives of the two characters in the poem; the speaker and the young girl. In the speaker's eyes, the two dead siblings shouldn't be considered in the final count while the girl very much considers them to still be a apart of the group. The way these perspectives are formed can tell a lot about the people who are having these views. For example, someone with a dark interpretation of "My Papa's Waltz" could be dealing with family issues as well which makes the problems in the poem seem more apparent. Also, the speaker in "We Are Seven" might not understand the bond the girl has with her siblings that motivates her to see even her late siblings as part of cohesive group. The notion that family is a subjective concept that changes depending on interpretations is an interesting idea to think about.

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  7. A Father To His Son

    A father sees his son nearing manhood.
    What shall he tell that son?
    "Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
    And this might stand him for the storms
    and serve him for humdrum monotony
    and guide him among sudden betrayals
    and tighten him for slack moments.
    "Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
    And this too might serve him.
    Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
    The growth of a frail flower in a path up
    has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
    A tough will counts. So does desire.
    So does a rich soft wanting.
    Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
    Tell him too much money has killed men
    and left them dead years before burial:
    the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
    has twisted good enough men
    sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
    Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
    Tell him to be a fool every so often
    and to have no shame over having been a fool
    yet learning something out of every folly
    hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
    thus arriving at intimate understanding
    of a world numbering many fools.
    Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
    and above all tell himself no lies about himself
    whatever the white lies and protective fronts
    he may use against other people.
    Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
    and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
    Tell him to be different from other people
    if it comes natural and easy being different.
    Let him h tand Shakespeare
    and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
    Michael Faraday and free imaginations
    Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
    He will be lonely enough
    to have time for the work
    he knows as his own.

    Family Friend Poems

    Mother To Son

    Well, son, I'll tell you:
    Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
    It's had tacks in it,
    And splinters,
    And boards torn up,
    And places with no carpet on the floor-
    But all the time
    I'se been a-climbin' on,
    And reachin' landin's,
    And turnin' corners,
    And sometimes goin' in the dark
    Where there ain't been no light.
    So, boy, don't you turn back.
    Don't you set down on the steps.
    'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
    Don't you fall now-
    For I'se still goin', honey,
    I'se still climbin',
    And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

    Family Friend Poems

    I chose the two poems “A Father To His Son” and “Mother To Son” because I found it interesting to see how the advice and meaning behind the poems would differ between it coming from the father and the mother. Strangely, I found that the mother poem seemed closer to what a stereotypical father would tell a son. Stereotypically, fathers tend to have fewer words but try to tell their sons that life “ain’t been no crystal stair”, where as mothers are the ones who try to guide their sons with many words of experience. Perhaps this is because my father is a man with very few words unlike my mother, who I constantly talk with. In terms of words of advice however, it’s my mother who always tells me that life is hard. She had a much tougher childhood financially than my father, thus she always reminds me how hard it is to survive in this world. My father, despite holding fewer conversations with me in general, always offered advice about different situations. The biggest similarity between the poem and my father is that they both seem to have trouble deciding what exactly they wish to tell me, like they have so many things they want to say that find difficulty in filtering out their worries. The constant repetitions of “tell him” and “let him” throughout the poem, indicate this. I think this is a good balance for me as I have my mother reminding me that life is hard and my father supplying the details and answers.