Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Report from Victoria

Twice—twice!—at this year's Modernist Studies Association conference in Victoria, British Columbia, P&PC heard people with no official connection to this blog sincerely and with no apparent malicious intent drop the name of the "people's poet" Edgar Guest. Sure, folks dropped it casually and quietly, as if they were testing the waters to see whether it really would disturb the universe if the author of A Heap O' Livin and Just Folks were mentioned in the same breath as Mina Loy and Ezra Pound and the politics of modernist salons. P&PC is happy to report that the universe is in stable condition.

What surprised P&PC more than all this Eddie Guest name-dropping, however, was the complete silence in regard to Robert Service (1874-1958)—the "Bard of the Yukon" and author of such classics as "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." Known as "the Canadian Kipling," Service is perhaps as much an illustration of "Modernist Networks" (the conference theme) as anyone else: he was born in Scotland, moved to Canada at age 21, worked as an ambulance driver and war correspondent during World War I, married a Parisian in France, and fled Europe for the U.S. with the outbreak of World War II. Wouldn't it have been interesting to put his poems about the Boer War ("The March of the Dead") and World War I (Rhymes of a Red Cross Man) into a modernist context and see what happens? Especially for a conference taking place in Canada?

In fact, the only mention of Service we encoun- tered during our three-day stay in B.C. was as we were doing our standard poetry-related research at the local pub and came across this ad for Service Scottish Ale (pictured at the top above) which is locally brewed by the Phillips Brewing Company of Victoria. The poster defines "service" in chiefly economic terms that make us uncomfortable—we'd like to think one could be celebrated for services of a less capitalist nature, for example—but given that the M.S.A. failed to offer much in the way of an alternative, we'll side, at least for the moment with Phillips. Join us for a drink?