SOMETHING STILL TO FIND: NEW POEMS
Volume 11 Number 6.
Douglas LePan has distinguished himself as poet and fiction-writer. Something Still to Find is his third publication of poetry; the first was The Wounded Prince (Chatto & Windus, 1948), and his second, The Net and the Sword (Clarke, Irwin), won the Governor General's award in 1953. He also won the Governor General's award for fiction in 1964 for The Deserter (McClelland and Stewart).
Something Still To Find is more than a collection of "new poems"; there is an historical thread that binds them together in an interconnected relationship between time past and time present. In the first poem, the author describes "the green man" who lives not only in the boreal forest (like some mythological figure) but "almost everywhere." He typifies that "underworld where life and death/are woven"; he is in all of us-that something dark and savage that we cover up in our busy world. Thus, even "the whole pent city (is) dreaming of a carnal/wood." The poems that follow link twentieth-century life to the life of the earlier explorers-and Champlain, in particular-to the wilderness and to a lost kingdom. The adventure that surrounded the lives of the discoverers seems to be lost, and so the poet feels the need to be in touch with those early inhabitants of our country. In "Astrolobe" LePan catches the tension experienced by the explorer who lets go of an old-world security to move "at last at ease in a world he never dreamed/this new world, ours where savagery and sweetness meet as one."
For the early explorers there was something more to find than the discovery of a new land; they came face to face with their own wilderness, their own destiny, their own death. In "Red Rock Light" and "A Radiance" the author looks at dying, death, and the life beyond death. The Red Rock Light is the lighthouse for the channel leading into Georgian Bay, and here "the thought of dying trickles everywhere." In "A Radiance," dedicated to his sister, Elizabeth Josephine, he asks for forgiveness while he sees her shining radiant as "death's matchless bride." Always there is the element of searching, as if we are in a dark wood "where we must find our way" ("Fragment from a Lost Romance"). The author has included six love poems, lyrical expressions of the human need to be "new restored" by nature. In "Emblem," a free verse, finely-wrought poem in four quatrains, the poet depicts the wild orchid known as the lady-slipper "veined with tenderness/ that reaches down to glacial rock" and says that it should be the emblem of our land.
Douglas LePan shows a sensitivity to nature, particularly the birds, flowers, and animals native to our land. He draws from them profound reflections, simply expressed, that seem to call out to Canadians, and, indeed, to all earth's people, to treat this planet with respect and to find our rhythm in tune with the winds and the grasses; to learn our lessons from the flickers, hummingbirds, or that new world's nightingale, the whip-poor-will, who incessantly explores "the ground between love and pain" ("The Whip-Poor-Will"). For Douglas LePan, ours is a "rough sweet land" where streams run "under grave eyes that have seen and suffered everything/and know that there is something still to find" ("A Rough Sweet Land").
Anne Leonard, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Halifax, NS.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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