The Iconoclasts

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 105th birthday.

Margaret Avison
1918 – 2007


The dervish dancer on the smoking steppes
Unscrolled, into the level lava-cool
Of Romish twilight, baleful hieroglyphs
That had been civic architecture,
The sculptured utterances of the Schools.

The Vikings rode the tasseled sea:
Over their shoulders, running towards their boats,
They had seen the lurking matriarchal wolves,
Ducked their bright foreheads from the iron laurels
Of a dark Scandinavian destiny,
And chosen, rather, to be dwarfed to pawns
Of the broad sulking sea.

And Lampman, when he prowled the Gatineau:
Were the white vinegar of northern rivers,
The stain of punkwood in chill evening air,
The luminous nowhere past the gloomy hills,
Were these his April cave—
Sought as the first men, when the bright release
Of sun filled them with sudden self-disdain
At bone-heaps, rotting pelts, muraled adventures,
Sought a more primitive nakedness?

The cave-men, Lampman, Lief, the dancing dervish,
Envied the fleering wolf his secret circuit;
But knew their doom to propagate, create,
Their wild salvation wrapt within that white
Burst of pure art whose only promise was
Ferocity in them, thudding its dense
Distracting rhythms down their haunted years.

The Days of the Unicorns

Phyllis Webb
1927 – 2021


I remember when the unicorns
roved in herds through the meadow
behind the cabin, and how they would
lately pause, tilting their jewelled
horns to the falling sun as we shared
the tensions of private property
and the need to be alone.

Or as we walked along the beach
a solitary delicate beast
might follow on his soft paws
until we turned and spoke the words
to console him.

It seemed they were always near
ready to show their eyes and stare
us down, standing in their creamy
skins, pink tongues out
for our benevolence.

As if they knew that always beyond
and beyond the ladies were weaving them
into their spider looms.

I knew where they slept
and how the grass was bent
by their own wilderness
and I pitied them.

It was only yesterday, or seems
like only yesterday when we could
touch and turn and they came
perfectly real into our fictions.
But they moved on with the courtly sun
grazing peacefully beyond the story
horns lowering and lifting and

I know this is scarcely credible now
as we cabin ourselves in the cold
and the motions of panic
and our cells destroy each other
performing music and extinction
and the great dreams pass on
to the common good.

A Dress for My Child

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 100th birthday.

Chava Rosenfarb
1923 – 2011


I would sew a dress for you, my child,
out of tulle made of spring’s joyful green,
and gladly crown your head with a diadem
made of the sunniest smiles ever seen.

I would fit out your feet with a pair
of crystal-like, weightless, dance-ready shoes,
and let you step out of the house with bouquets,
bright with the promise of pinks and of blues.

But outside it is cold and dreary, my child,
the wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild.
They will mangle the dress of joy into shreds
and sweep the sun’s smiling crown off your head,

Shatter to dust the translucent glass of your shoes
and bury in mud the dreams of pinks and of blues.
From far away I can hear you call me and moan:
“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”

So perhaps I should sew a robe for you, my child,
out of the cloak of my old-fashioned pain,
and alter my hat of experience for you
to shelter you from the ravaging rain?

On your feet I would put my own heavy boots,
the soles studded with spikes from my saviourless past
and guide your way through the door with a torchlight
of wisdom I’ve saved till this hour of dusk.

But outside it is cold and dreary, my child.
The wanton winds lurking unbridled and wild
will rip up the robe sewn with outdated thread,
bare your chest to all danger, to fear bare your head.

The heavy boots will sink in the swamp and will drown,
the light of wisdom mocked by the laugh of a clown.
From afar I hear you call me and moan:
“Mother, mother, why did you leave me alone?”

What a wretched seamstress your mother is—
Can’t sew a dress for her child!
All she does is prick her clumsy fingers,
cross-stitching her soul, while her eyes go blind.

The only thing that I can sew for you, my sweet, my golden child,
is a cotton shift of the love I store
in my heart. The only thing I can give to light your way
are my tears of blessing; I have nothing more.

So I must leave you outside, my child, and leave you there alone.
Perhaps dressed in clothing of love you will learn better how to go from home.
So I sit here and sew and sew, while in my heart I hope and pray—
my hands, unsteady, tremble; my mind, distracted, gone astray.

The Last Waltz

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 90th birthday.

Alden Nowlan
1933 – 1983


The orchestra playing
the last waltz
at three o’clock
in the morning
in the Knights of Pythias Hall
in Hartland, New Brunswick,
Canada, North America,
world, solar system,
centre of the universe—

and all of us drunk,
swaying together
to the music of rum

and a sad clarinet:

comrades all,
each with his beloved.

The Winter Lakes

We present this work in honor of the 105th anniversary of the poet’s death.

William Wilfrid Campbell
1858 – 1918


Out in a world of death far to the northward lying,
Under the sun and the moon, under the dusk and the day;
Under the glimmer of stars and the purple of sunsets dying,
Wan and waste and white, stretch the great lakes away.

Never a bud of spring, never a laugh of summer,
Never a dream of love, never a song of bird;
But only the silence and white, the shores that grow chiller and dumber,
Wherever the ice winds sob, and the griefs of winter are heard.

Crags that are black and wet out of the grey lake looming,
Under the sunset’s flush and the pallid, faint glimmer of dawn;
Shadowy, ghost-like shores, where midnight surfs are booming
Thunders of wintry woe over the spaces wan.

Lands that loom like spectres, whited regions of winter,
Wastes of desolate woods, deserts of water and shore;
A world of winter and death, within these regions who enter,
Lost to summer and life, go to return no more.

Moons that glimmer above, waters that lie white under,
Miles and miles of lake far out under the night;
Foaming crests of waves, surfs that shoreward thunder,
Shadowy shapes that flee, haunting the spaces white.

Lonely hidden bays, moon-lit, ice-rimmed, winding,
Fringed by forests and crags, haunted by shadowy shores;
Hushed from the outward strife, where the mighty surf is grinding
Death and hate on the rocks, as sandward and landward it roars.


We present this work in honor of the 75th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Duncan Campbell Scott
1862 – 1947


A deep bell that links the downs
To the drowsy air;
Every loop of sound that swoons,
Finds a circle fair,
Whereon it doth rest and fade;
Every stroke that dins is laid
Like a node,
Spinning out the quivering, fine,
Vibrant tendrils of a vine:
(Bim – bim – bim.)
How they wreathe and run,
Silvern as a filmy light,
Filtered from the sun:
The god of sound is out of sight,
And the bell is like a cloud,
Humming to the outer rim,
Low and loud:
(Bim – bim – bim.)
Throwing down the tempered lull,
Fragile, beautiful:
Married drones and overtones,
How we fancy them to swim,
Spreading into shapes that shine,
With the aura of the metals,
Prisoned in the bell,
Fulvous tinted as a shell,
Dreamy, dim,
Deep in amber hyaline:
(Bim – bim – bim.)


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 150th birthday.

John McCrae
1872 – 1918


My lover died a century ago,
Her dear heart stricken by my sland’rous breath,
Wherefore the Gods forbade that I should know
The peace of death.

Men pass my grave, and say, “‘Twere well to sleep,
Like such an one, amid the uncaring dead!”
How should they know the vigil that I keep,
The tears I shed?

Upon the grave, I count with lifeless breath,
Each night, each year, the flowers that bloom and die,
Deeming the leaves, that fall to dreamless death,
More blest than I.

‘Twas just last year—I heard two lovers pass
So near, I caught the tender words he said:
To-night the rain-drenched breezes sway the grass
Above his head.

That night full envious of his life was I,
That youth and love should stand at his behest;
To-night, I envy him, that he should lie
At utter rest.


Archibald Lampman
1861 – 1899


From plains that reel to southward, dim,
The road runs by me white and bare;
Up the steep hill it seems to swim
Beyond, and melt into the glare.
Upward half-way, or it may be
Nearer the summit, slowly steals
A hay-cart, moving dustily
With idly clacking wheels.
By his cart’s side the wagoner
Is slouching slowly at his ease,
Half-hidden in the windless blur
Of white dust puffiing to his knees.
This wagon on the height above,
From sky to sky on either hand,
Is the sole thing that seems to move
In all the heat-held land.

Beyond me in the fields the sun
Soaks in the grass and hath his will;
I count the marguerites one by one;
Even the buttercups are still.
On the brook yonder not a breath
Disturbs the spider or the midge.
The water-bugs draw close beneath
The cool gloom of the bridge.

Where the far elm-tree shadows flood
Dark patches in the burning grass,
The cows, each with her peaceful cud,
Lie waiting for the heat to pass.
From somewhere on the slope near by
Into the pale depth of the noon
A wandering thrush slides leisurely
His thin revolving tune.

In intervals of dreams I hear
The cricket from the droughty ground;
The grasshoppers spin into mine ear
A small innumerable sound.
I lift mine eyes sometimes to gaze:
The burning sky-line blinds my sight:
The woods far off are blue with haze:
The hills are drenched in light.

And yet to me not this or that
Is always sharp or always sweet;
In the sloped shadow of my hat
I lean at rest, and drain the heat;
Nay more, I think some blessèd power
Hath brought me wandering idly here:
In the full furnace of this hour
My thoughts grow keen and clear.


We present this work in honor of the Canadian holiday, Civic Day.

Sarah Anne Curzon
1833 – 1898


O Ye, who with your blood and sweat
Watered the furrows of this land,—
See where upon a nation’s brow
In honour’s front, ye proudly stand!

Who for her pride abased your own,
And gladly on her altar laid
All bounty of the older world,
All memories that your glory made.

And to her service bowed your strength,
Took labour for your shield and crest;
See where upon a nation’s brow
Her diadem, ye proudly test!

The Plains of Abraham

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 200th birthday.

Charles Sangster
1822 – 1893


I stood upon the Plain,
That had trembled when the slain,
Hurled their proud defiant curses at the battle-hearted foe,
When the steed dashed right and left
Through the bloody gaps he cleft,
When the bridle-rein was broken, and the rider was laid low.

What busy feet had trod
Upon the very sod
Where I marshalled the battalions of my fancy to my aid!
And I saw the combat dire,
Heard the quick, incessant fire,
And the cannons’ echoes startling the reverberating glade.

I saw them one and all,
The banners of the Gaul
In the thickest of the contest, round the resolute Montcalm;
The well-attended Wolfe,
Emerging from the gulf
Of the battle’s fiery furnace, like the swelling of a psalm.

I head the chorus dire,
That jarred along the lyre
On which the hymn of battle rung, like surgings of the wave
When the storm, at blackest night,

Wakes the ocean in affright,
As it shouts its mighty pibroch o’er some shipwrecked vessel’s grave.

I saw the broad claymore
Flash from its scabbard, o’er
The ranks that quailed and shuddered at the close and fierce attack;
When Victory gave the word,
Then Scotland drew the sword,
And with arm that never faltered drove the brave defenders back.

I saw two great chiefs die,
Their last breaths like the sigh
Of the zepher-sprite that wantons on the rosy lips of morn;
No envy-poisoned darts,
No rancour in their hearts,
To unfit them for their triumph over death’s impending scorn.

And as I thought and gazed,
My soul, exultant, praised
The Power to whom each mighty act and victory are due,
For the saint-like Peace that smiled
Like a heaven-gifted child,
And for the air of quietude that steeped the distant view.

The sun looked down with pride,
And scattered far and wide
His beams of whitest glory till they flooded all the Plain;
The hills their veils withdrew,
Of white, and purplish blue,
And reposed all green and smiling ‘neath the shower of golden rain.

Oh, rare, divinest life
Of Peace, compared with Strife!
Yours is the truest splendour, and the most enduring fame;
All the glory ever reaped
Where the fiends of battle leaped,
Is harsh discord to the music of your undertoned acclaim.