Archive for May, 2011

Fiddleheads

It’s fiddlehead season here in the Maritimes, and I’ve had three helpings so far. The ones above were the crispest I found, floating in a big stainless steel bowl of water at Local Source on Charles Street in Halifax.

Fiddleheads being one of my favourite foods, I was thrilled when I happened upon Nicholas Catanoy’s The Fiddlehead Republic (Hounslow Press, 1979) at a second-hand shop a few years ago. Although I wound up being less than enthusiastic about the long poem inside, I’ve saved the book both for the bright green fiddlehead motif on its cover (borrowed with permission from McCain Foods) and because it’s inscribed to poet Robert Kroetsch, making it kind of an interesting CanLit specimen. Catanoy is a Romanian doctor and author who spent a few years in the late 1960s living in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The Fiddlehead Republic is a curious book, not unenjoyable but not really poetry either.

Under the title, on the half-title page in my copy, Catanoy has written “log book” which is actually the better way to approach the work. It’s arranged as verse, but contains large excerpts from historic monuments, road signs and tourist brochures, and lists the contents of several museum collections. It reads like a car-ride, or multiple car-rides, through the province of New Brunswick, largely verbatim, which I suppose is why I have trouble with it as poetry.

Rereading this year I also discovered an unsourced line from Elizabeth Bishop’s “At the Fishhouses,” which I wouldn’t have caught previously: “Down by one of the fish-houses an old man sits netting.” Catanoy has hyphenated fish-houses, which Bishop didn’t, and capitalized “down” which appears partway through the first line in Bishop’s poem, but otherwise it’s identical. Could it be a coincidence? I don’t know.

In any case, reading it all again this week was a good reminder that I am overdue for a visit to the province where I ate my first fiddleheads – in fiddlehead soup with a side of fries on the Miramichi River with my friend Mary. In case I’ve piqued your interest, here’s a short, foody sample from Catanoy’s section on Hartland:

HARTLAND, Potato Blossom Festival

French fries & milkshakes
Bumpers of cars

Sweet flute music.

Jean-Brillat Savarin:
“…The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they nourish themselves.”


The Antigonish Review (#165)

I have two poems, “December 31” and “The Afternoon Show,” in the new issue of The Antigonish Review (#165). This issue also features poems by Tom Wayman, Emily McGiffin and Jesse Patrick Ferguson, to name a few I like, so worth picking up a copy.