More Alden Nowlan

I just picked up two of Alden Nowlan’s books of poetry at my local library. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of him until a few weeks ago when I caught a snippet of a documentary about him while I was surfing the channels in search of American Idol.* It’s surprising to me I didn’t learn about him in elementary school — Nowlan grew up right here in Nova Scotia. He was dirt poor. His mother gave birth to him when she was only 15 years old; he left school in the fifth grade. And he went on to write poems like the following one, the formatting of which I have butchered:

Tenth Wedding Anniversary

This is neither to
take back what was given
in rage, nor to deny the scars
I send you no Valentine card.
We are human and didn’t
live happily ever after.
We are what our children
promise they’ll never be —
a man and a woman
who get on each other’s
nerves at times, and have traded
glares of the purest hate.
This is only to say there has never been
a moment in ten years
when I ceased to be
conscious of your presence
in the universe, never
a thought of mine in all that time
that wasn’t superimposed
on my constant awareness of
your separate existence.
If the inhabitants of
the earth depended
for their survival on my
keeping them always
in mind, my world would be
empty — except for you.

Now I’m seeing Alden Nowlan mentions everywhere — that seems to be the way it works. A feather falls into your hand; suddenly there are feathers every which way you turn. Most recent mentions were from Bookninja (who pointed to Selected Poems and Alden Nowlan Canadian Masters Series), Rileydog, and Pia Z. Ehrhardt. I hope this signals the beginning of a big resurgence of interest in the man’s work.

*This is telling, isn’t it?


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