publishing poetry only

Monday's Poem

The Gates of Hell

For Cerberus (1952) by Raymond Souster,
Irving Layton, Louis Dudek

With squeals (falsetto)
in a blameless poetry's
dead lingo:
the local Boatman
warns off

that three-tongued tearaway
scampering past Toronto's
Depression buildings,
on a grey
pre-Canada Council

More screams, getting louder
as he trots between
Customs and Dominion Sugar,
then emerges from the Underpass,
to hoots
from the line-up

for the Downtowner's
"Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
— But a yawn's the response
all the way up University
— past Canada Trust,
Imperial Life —

and, most positively, throat-clearings
from a certain miffed Victoria
College underwriter.
— And all before he'd
even raised
a leg!

Of course, it was what he said
— as one and all
his upraised heads
cut loose with barking
fit to wake
the living dead.

A million screen-doors
squealed shut
in the little frame-houses
— where the gates of hell
stood open between
Toronto and Montreal.

A dog answering
to that name
— the better read
wrote (and said) —
should be guard to none
but the deathless dead.

Link: Kenneth McRobbie's League of Canadian Poets webpage.


As this 'Monday Poem' suggests, I look back with gratitude to the time when I was a young graduate student within the fellowship of poets in Toronto and Montreal during Canadian Literature's 'iron age'. If it was a period of impoverishment for writers, it was one alleviated by personal contacts with poets in the USA such as Charles Olson and Denise Levertov, and enriched by access to the work of poets in France and Italy. The poetry of that period had a distinctive 'political' dimension, which characterized my own work then and continues to do so now. It led to a long and close association with the distinguished older Hungarian immigrant family of Ilona Duczynska and Karl Polanyi. Through them I became committed for several years to translating Hungarian poetry, principally that of writers who stayed in Hungary after the Revolution.

I am currently translating the Latvian poet Andris Berzs' Siberian prison camp poems, and writing on the new genre of Baltic women's deportation literature.

© 2007 Kenneth McRobbie