This memoir explores the author's coming-of-age and how growing up with a gay father shaped her life. More, it is a story about telling the truth, andThis memoir explores the author's coming-of-age and how growing up with a gay father shaped her life. More, it is a story about telling the truth, and how the truth can set us free. To quote from the book: "The moment I adjusted the memory, I felt a palpable relief. / This is what truth does for us." When reading through this book, you can feel how cathartic this must have been for the author to write; to just tell the truth and release it to the world. Not only is she telling the truth of her father, she is also telling the truth of her own experiences and what she went through coming to terms with this fact. Reading about this journey she went through is one of my favourite parts; this is her experience, and it is valid. Also, I imagine other people going through similar situations might find reading it equally cathartic.
This book does have value, and is worth reading, but I also find myself wishing she had gone further, and challenged herself on a few things. First, Wearing is definitely perpetuating very conventional ideas of gender and sexuality. A man is a man. A woman is a woman. A gay man is a gay man. And her attempt to deny she was engaging in stereotypes at the beginning was kind of groan-worthy. Whenever she is describing gay men, she just kind of describes them as... well, gay men. Even when she exclaims how much her dad loves Charles DICKens kind of felt like a gay joke. I also had to groan at Wearing's unwavering faith in a liberal democracy 's ability to make everything better and perfect for everyone. 'Look how much we've progressed and look how bad things were 50 years ago!' and all that. Which is, of course, overly simplistic, and ignores the realities of people who aren't privileged, white, affluent gay cis-gendered men. Okay, I admit it: I just want my queer politics to be more radical, which this book isn't. This book very much perpetuates the status-quo. I also admit, I wasn't really the target audience.
Worth reading, a beautiful story with some beautiful writing; but don't turn your critical brain off.
I'm excited to see how this translates into a dramatic performance, too....more
This book of poetry collects poems from Don McKay's career between 1983 and 2000. If there was any doubt that McKay has a long tradition as a nature pThis book of poetry collects poems from Don McKay's career between 1983 and 2000. If there was any doubt that McKay has a long tradition as a nature poet, look no further. In some ways, his approach to nature poetry can be seen as a reaction to Romantic poetry's notions of nature (after this book was published, McKay ditched the "nature poet" label and donned (hehe) the title "geo poet" - a subtle but meaningful difference). In the Romantic tradition, nature is fully integrated into the human story, and even supports it. Romantic poets are known for idling in nature to gain great epiphanies and insights. In this sense, nature is a tool for advancing human ends; even if the intentions are good, humans are still in the leading role. McKay interrupts this understanding by admitting that the natural world (the whole world, for that matter) contains a wilderness which cannot be incorporated into the human story - it is utterly beyond it and cannot be reduced by the human mind to something manageable. From this comes a sort of reverence for the natural world on its own terms, not merely ours. In McKay's poetry, metaphor serves as a tool that keeps our language's bad tendencies in check: the tendency to reduce everything to a name, and believe that the object itself can be understood through that name. Metaphor does not redeem language, but it brings it closer to seeing things as they are: metaphor shows that straightforward language cannot completely explain the world, and shows that there is an understanding / form of knowing beyond rationality. This humbling of the human ego is something that is necessary if we are to live well in the world.
This book of poems is consistently good, and is required reading for anyone who wants a fuller view of McKay's poetic career. It's also nice, since, like most poetry collections, the books that this one draws from are out of print....more
This is the first collection of essays by Canadian nature poet extraordinaire Don McKay. With this book, McKay contributes to a philosophical conversaThis is the first collection of essays by Canadian nature poet extraordinaire Don McKay. With this book, McKay contributes to a philosophical conversation about language and the world that some of his fellow poets had previously written about, such as Jan Zwicky, Tim Lilburn, and Dennis Lee. Being a nature poet, McKay takes the natural world as his focus. If the natural world is something that is Other to humanity, then how does the Self relate to this Other? Increasingly, the relationship between humans and the natural world has been overwhelmingly one-sided, with humans imposing control onto the world. Our technology, our tools (including language), are used in this manner.
In modern thought, wilderness is seen as a space that is in opposition to human civilization. McKay asks us to see this separation as contrived. Wilderness is not a set of spaces outside the human experience, but rather wilderness is anything that evades the mind's appropriations, or conventions. In other words, what McKay calls wilderness, is the real world; the implication is that human conventions cannot truly re-present this reality. There is a gap between Self and Other which cannot fully be bridged. Humans, in our arrogance, tend to believe that we can understand the world through our language. Something McKay asks us to accept is that no system of knowing will unify us with the world: we will always be isolated from the world around us, with only our ideas of it in our minds.
Once we realize this inherent inadequacy of language, we can choose to engage in a healthier relationship with the world around us. Language does not have to remain a one-dimensional tool that we use to control the world. By letting wilderness invade our language, our language will be changed. This change, as a result of the invasion, should better reflect the real world. As a poet, McKay points to metaphor as a prime example of wilderness invading language. With metaphor, language admits that it is inadequate: the rational use of language cannot represent something in the world; there is really no straightforward way to say something. Metaphor jumps across distant regions of experience in order to explain something, and this jump hints at the jump we hope to make between the Self and Other. Of course the jump between Self and Other is never achieved, but each successful metaphor gets us a little bit closer. We are given a brief glimpse, and then it is gone. When that feeling is achieved, we can recognize that there are realities beyond us, beyond our understanding, and they deserve our respect and attention. We are constantly translating our experience of the world into language; it is not the act of translating that is evil, it is forgetting that you are translating. The point McKay is trying to make is that we should enact translation of the world thoughtfully.
In this manner, McKay is also rejecting Romantic views of the world. This includes "back to nature" types, which only serves to reinforce the culture/nature split (by reversing the binary). In Romantic thought, radical unification with the world is possible. When we assume that radical union, or radical understanding of the world is possible, we are given the power to assume that our own reality of the world is the same as other's reality of the world, which only serves to erase realities of the world which are not human (or our own, since different realities exist in human communities/individuals, too). While Romantic thought claims to have the natural world as its focus, in the end the individual human Self is the only real focus, and the Other simply gets wrapped up in its story. This also serves to reclaim nature writing from the Romantic writings that make it so trite, and turn it into a meaningful and radical engagement with the world....more