10月21日上午，2016凤凰·鼓浪屿诗歌节第二天，主题为“个人化写作与外来文化影响”的诗歌国际论坛在鼓浪屿举办。诗人赵野，赵四，李少君，树才，李元胜，默默，韩庆成，廖伟棠，林于弘、黄冈、加拿大诗人洛尔娜·克罗奇（Lorna Crozier），英国诗人李道（Richard Bruns），印度汉学学者、诗人普利亚达西·墨普德教授、韩国翻译家金泰成等人在论坛做出精彩又有见地的发言。论坛由诗人、翻译家、评论家汪剑釗和诗人北塔主持。
MYGRANDFATHER’S DRUNKEN HORSE:
Personal Writing andthe Influence of Foreign Cultures
On both sides ofmy family there was a penchant for drink and horses. My maternal grandfatherbrought the two together. Grandpa Ford’s father was a wagoner, working on anestate just north of the Welsh-Englishborder near the town of Shrewsbury, where my grandmother said, the church wasround so the devil couldn’t corner you. From the time he walked straight-backed out of school in grade fourbecause the teacher wrongly accused him of cheating, he worked every day besidehis father, taking care of the horses and driving wagons back and forth fromthe fields to town. He was allowed to ride one of the draft horses if he wantedto go off on his own after the farm work was done. The gelding he chose was aShire named Billy, 17 hands high and uncommon gray with white featheredfetlocks above hooves that spread wide as platters on the plowed fields.
When Grandpa reached drinking age, he andBilly made evening trips to the village pub. Luckily for him because he had no money, my grandfather was a singer, andinside, at a table near the window, he bartered a song for his first pint.Perhaps he wasn’t melodious enough to get a second or a third sent his way.Those were provided by Billy. It worked like this: my grandfather didn’t allowhimself to down his first beer. He had to have faith like the thirsty man whoprimed the pump by pouring a ready bucket of water down the top, believing thesacrifice will pay off in a fresh stream gushing from the spout. When Grandparaised his pint, Billy, tied up outside, poked his head through the open windowand guzzled the beer, his master feigning surprise and outrage. The patronswere so delighted they kept the drinks coming for the man and the horse untilclosing time when the two would stumble home in the dark. Grandpa said hedidn’t know who was the shakier on his legs. Some nights he thought he’d haveto carry Billy on his back.
My first published poem, “Old Man With aCane” was about my grandfather. It wasn’t very good, you can tell from thetitle, but it was about someone I both knew and didn’t know well. Although attwenty-four I was naïve about many aspects of writing, my instincts werereliable. I was drawn to write about what I was familiar with but remainedunsure of. As a child and later as an adult, I struggled with the gap betweenhow my grandfather appeared to me and how my mother perceived him.
When she was a kid on their Saskatchewanfarm, he often lost his temper and went after her or one of her six siblingswith a willow switch. He bullied my grandmother, too, her fear of his outburstskeeping her anxious and alert. How could that be the same man who showed me howto make a whistle from a caragana pod, who told me stories of his belovedhorse? There was something about mygrandfather that resisted words, and resistance is often the place where poetrystarts. Language gets the mostinteresting at its points of fracture, these moments of tension and failurewhen all we mean to say can’t be said.
I believed then that I’d be able toarticulate what I was wrestling with. Now, I know it’s not the task of poetryto find the answers. Instead, as Rainer Maria Rilke suggested, I’ve learned tolive the questions. And I’ve learned to celebrate the specifics of the placewhere I was born and raised, the great rolling plains of the Canadianmid-west. I’ve come to value my ownstories, the sound of my own voice, and the idiosyncrasies of myimagination. That’s the personal side ofmy writing. But what of foreign influence, the second half of this topic?
Inthe past, Canadian poets were overwhelmedby foreign influences, particularly American and British. The literarycultures of these two powerful practitioners of the English language invadedour country, and it was hard for us to be heard above their noise. For onething, we were invisible to them. When they looked beyond their own borders,they cast their eyes on other nations. Canadians, they assumed, were simply awatered-down version of themselves. An American friend said to me the otherday, “Until I travelled in Canada, I thought of you guys as Budweiser Light.”
Our poetry thrived, however, inisolation, and by the mid-twentieth century, it stepped out of the shadow ofGreat Britain and the States, and forged its own path, though every poet I knowis as well-versed in contemporary American poetry as our own. Outward-looking, our poets absorbed the craftand poetic savvy of Basho and Dante and Li Po and Tu Fu and Hafiz, andtwentieth-century luminaries like Akhmatova, Transtromer, Bei Dao, Amichai, XiChuan, Garcia Lorca, Shu Ting, Machado, Vallejo, and Swir. We still, however,haven’t escaped from the influence of our powerful southern neighbours.Ironically, our reading of poets who don’t write in English depends on thebrilliance and generosity of Americans because foreign literature comes to usthrough their translators, through their particular lens.
For Canadian writers, our challenge untilfairly recently has not been an ignorance of others but an ignorance of ourselves. Aspart of our growing self-awareness, we’ve had to come to terms with the mostshameful part of our history: since the time of settlement in the eighteenthcentury, our ancestors and governments have ruthlessly tried to erase those whowere here before. The loss for aboriginal people has been immeasurable, but therest of the population has been damaged too. As a poet, how can you understandand speak a place if you don’t listen to the first peoples who lived here, tothe original words for the mountains, the rivers, the trees? How can you writeauthentically if you ignore thousands of years of common and sacred knowledge?
To give a sense of the richness ofindigenous languages, we only have look at the calendar. In the mother tongues of first nations people, thenames of the months are a source of ritual and information. Their verbalpictures tell us what to expect. My neighbours on Vancouver Island, the Saanichpeople, who depend on the salmon runs of the Pacific, name three of their moonsafter different varieties of the fish—TheDog Salmon Moon, The Coho Moon and The Humpback Moon, each of theseindicating when that particular salmon is spawning. The time of year thatcorresponds with November is called the Moonof Putting Your Paddle Away in the Bush. So much is suggested in thatnaming!
The prairieCree, who live far from the ocean in one of the coldest parts of the country,call November The Frost Moon andDecember The Frost Exploding Moon.The start of the new year, January, is TheGreat Moon of Returning Hope.
The best ofCanadian poetry, I believe, looks outward toward other cultures and theirliterary wonders; it knows the poetry of the past as well as contemporarywriting. But it also acknowledges the original singers who were silenced. Ourwords must taste of our own rivers, not the Thames or the Seine or theMississippi or the Yangtze. We must listen to our cathedrals offive-hundred-year-old cedars and our great choirs of prairie grass. We musteavesdrop on the human heart and hear what the heart of the land is saying.