Correct in this Culture

ISBN: 978-0920079-17-1 • 1985

Correct in this Culture, was published in the fall of 1985, edited by the owner of 5th House, Caroline Heath, a fabulous editor. I did the revisions by mail in my brother’s farmhouse near Aubigny where the Manitoba Writers’ Guild was inaugurated, using the St Agathe Post Office.

After the collection was published, my wife Sheila and I were having dinner at a wonderful Saskatoon Vietnamese restaurant (a novelty in those days) and told her of Sheila’s pregnancy – that she was due in July. A look of panic crossed Caroline’s face, and said ”God no! It’s not just that he will be an astrological Cancer, but I feel he will also have cancer.” We didn’t know what to say and changed the subject. A poem about his 8 hour surgery to remove a brain tumour appears later in Lucky Man.  

Correct in this Culture features an introduction called “Mother Tongue” which was written in a feverish state of Rimbaud inspired “disordered senses” in Banff in 1984 when I was attending the three-week intensive arts administration training course. Sixteen hours of case study and group work every day, resident room parties that started at 10:00 p.m. at the earliest and finished at 2:00 a.m. Then I wrote for as long as I could stay awake. It combines family mythology; the story goes that Mennonites found twins abandoned beside the river Enns, one died and the other was called Abraham von der Enns, with the biblical mythology – the expulsion from the garden, and the emigration from Russia thrown in for good measure.

Ever over-reaching I decided to put a little travelling road show together, with the local show to be launched at Clifford Wiens’ Regina CBC building introduced by a dance choreographed by his daughter Robin Poitras who was building New Dance Horizons at the time.  Robin broke her toe two days before the performance and it was not performed as imagined until 20 years later, outdoors, in a prairie garden, with audio, as part of the NDH Secret Gardens Fundraising tour.

The audio-tape included narration by Globe Theatre Artistic Director Ken Kramer (my mentor 1988 – 1991), a German professor whose name I can’t remember, and a very rare reading by my father. I translated “Mother Tongue, into German for them, nights during a weekend in Minneapolis, visiting The Loft to see what the SWG, where I was working at the time, could learn.

I wasn’t ambitious enough to think I would tour with dancers, so I traded my green stick shift Datsun for professional photography by Richard Gustin, who took still photos of Robin Poitras and the other dancer Marnie Gladwell as they went though their paces in a studio, making B & W slides for the slide show. I presented the multi-media performance in Regina (without the live dancers), Saskatoon, Winnipeg, in the old PTE after something that I think involved Patrick Friesen, and in Toronto. Only the organizers showed up being too timid to mention that Irving Layton was reading the same night at Harbourfront.  As far as I know the book was never reviewed – anywhere. And I offer a $100 reward to anyone who can find the box with the a/v presentation and copies of the book. Click here to find out more.


Correct in this culture

right thinking, thinking like us
us thinking we’re left looking
forward: our future, our children
ourselves  our bodies assuming
the correct posture, but not a pose
cameras are permissible, but only to gather
evidence, like us, there is no more personal
scandal, just beating, abuse, and aggression
showing there is strength, even in
wrong numbers, correct numbers, but there is certain
satisfaction knowing you are on the right side
right thinking, thinking like us, it is
a decade without soft edges, but there is still
no sharp picture, everything is in a screen
pattern, everyone is trying to break
out of together, again, thinking
right, to the end, of the correct line

Our solid world is made of such vibrations

How it was we should be
watching the rain from the inside
of the century:

we were both lost
I was drunk.

This ritual finding
we keep
making our own:

you, like the world’s first dancer,
discover the story in motion

I, wide-eyed, shoes laces tied together,
Stumbling on an old secret.



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