War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Little Corner of England, discuss...

met with my fellow PhD poets. an interesting lot. I read them two of my ‘Little Corner of England’ pieces. a fascinating discussion broke out, a discussion that carried on for days via email (well a few weeks actually).

the title of this series of poems* stirred up all sorts of reactions with reference primarily to Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier

my British colleagues felt my title. Little Corner of England was uncomfortably close to Brooke’s lines, That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is for ever England’. they felt discomfort at the reference with its perceived connotations of imperialism and class etc.

another colleague felt that perhaps because The Soldier had been parodied so much that my title and it’s perceived allusion, could not be taken seriously.

I find all of this very, very interesting. to be honest, I was writing about an incident that happened to me/with me in the southwest of England last spring. I saw a young soldier running along a train platform and he was dressed in desert fatigues. he had his ISAF badge on, and strangely, was carrying his body armour. I’ve never seen body armour anywhere but on Ex, in an army HQ, or in theatre. it was jarring seeing the desert colours amongst the greys and blacks of English clothing. I began to imagine who he was, where he might be going etc.

the title, Little Corner of England, is in fact literal. the southwest IS a little corner of the country called England.

as my colleagues and I engaged in this fascinating discussion, I had some revelations. I realized that I am seeing England from a post-post colonial point of view. when my colleagues expressed feelings of post-colonial discomfort and class, I said to them, “well don’t worry about Canadians. our country has been post-colonial for 140+ years, we have our own Charter of Rights, our Constitution has been repatriated. we’re not insecure, we’re a confident, sovereign nation

I started to think that perhaps in our security of who we are as Canadians, we are able to come to a little corner of England and see its parochialism, its quaintness, as a cultural artifact rather than as a template for how we live post-post colony.

I also was unapologetic to my colleagues v my patriotism. I said to them, “you are American and British and have a history of imperialism that my country doesn’t share.” and indeed, I have never been embarrassed to say I love my country, that big, chatty collection of grumbling provinces that seem to only share hockey and donuts and healthcare sometimes. my country which says to the newcomer, “you’re one of us”, especially if the newcomer wants to participate in hockey and donuts and healthcare…

and I’m interested that Brooke’s words may be interpreted as imperialist. I was thinking about our soldiers who are buried in the “foreign fields” of Flanders, France, England… I’ve seen some of the graves and from what I understand, where they are buried is a little piece of Canada. our countries make us. we make our countries. I think of that concept of “northness” which inhabits all Canadians. it is a part of us all. our snow. our sky. our prairie. our forest. our mountains. our oceans. they all make us. and there is no shame in loving that.

is there?

discuss…

  • in VERY rough draft form here on my site because that’s what I PROMISED a long time ago… to show the good, the bad and the ugly i.e., ineptness of my writing

1 Comment (Closed)

Alex VanderWoude

I have lived in Canada since I was 10 years old, and voluntarily became a subject of Her Majesty the Queen upon adulthood. Despite my teeth-grinding frustration with some of my fellow citizens (cough health care cough) I have never regretted this decision. Sure we have problems, but they pale into insignificance when compared to other places and times. Furthermore, I am patriotic (in a typically understated Canadian way), and make no apology for that.

Here’s a meta-question for your literary colleagues: is “imperialism” necessarily wrong, as they presuppose? Obviously, many people in history have suffered under the yoke of an invading empire. But have there ever been positive results from such an imposition? Consider the elimination of the Thuggee cult and the practice of sati in India, just off the top of my head. Could the net results of some forms of imperialism ever be good? I doubt if your correspondents have ever even considered the question, let alone seriously explored it.

Dec 11 2011 · 14:50

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Little Corner of England, discuss.... It was posted here on December 09, 2011.

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