War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Notes from PhD Land - Remembrancetide

my supervisor, Professor Tim Kendall, poet and world class scholar in poetry, particularly war poetry has coined the term “Remembrancetide” to describe the weeks around November 11th, which over here at least, seem to be turning into a season of sorts. what is commemorated on Armistice Day, 11 Nov., at home, over here is spread out over a few weeks. in the shops there are all sorts of poppy products. I’ve seen poppy outfits, poppy hats, blingy poppy broaches. never so much as when I was a guest last 10 November with the Royal Fusiliers to Westminster Abbey last year (and then to their HQ in the Tower of London) and saw real poppy bling.

I remember living in Scotland in 2003 and asking, as 11 Nov. came closer, where the ceremonies were going to take place, and was amazed to attend only very modest affairs on the actual day. in the U.K. the Armistice is celebrated on the nearest Sunday with a church service (even though the church going population over here is in the minority) and then seems to spread over these weeks with parades and church services and concerts etc.

I grew up in Canada with old veterans visiting us children a few weeks before 11 Nov. they would speak very indirectly, of their war. a purchase of a poppy, then on the 11th, the inevitably cold, rainy and long ceremony at our local cenotaph, alongside my family. and then my brothers and sister got older, just with my dad. and when I was older and on my own, I never missed a single year. the vets just seemed so worthy to me, even if I could at the time have been described as a “free spirit” or as a woman soldier in KAF referred to me disparagingly as she ate a meal alongside me and learned I came from British Columbia and was a poet, “oh, you’re one of those west coast tree hugging lefty hippies” (I just about dumped my plate of food on her, but that’s another story). the vets were blue blazered, and grey slacked, their medals clinked in the rain. I watched how over the years they began to stoop, then move to wheelchairs and blankets. their numbers thinning. until now only the hardiest of WWII and Korea survive.

as we are approaching the centenary of WWI I believe we will be entering a Remembrance Year. the papers are filled with opportunities to mark the centenary, and books are flying into the bookstores daily with WWI topics. so too is the television filling with WWI productions. the latest being Ford Maddox Ford’s excellent Parades End. I’m being asked to participate in events.

but the odd thing about last year though was that during the season of Remembrancetide, on the actual day, November 11th, all was business as usual. I gave an interview that day, had a video crew in to make a little film about my work and how I use digital technology. I asked them to leave before 11 am because I felt it wasn’t quite right just to carry on as normal through the 11th hour. and I still believe, for the vets and those who didn’t come home, it’s simply not to much to ask that we remember them at that pinpoint hour of that pinpoint day at that pinpoint month, and last year, 11/11/11/11, held particular poignance for me, as old vets are replaced by young vets. some thriving, others not. and those who didn’t return. and some. who simply couldn’t carry on. after war.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Notes from PhD Land - Remembrancetide. It was posted here on October 13, 2012.


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