Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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NH Elegy: hockey poetry hits the news

Hero-1

One of my favourite poets is Richard Harrison. While he writes poetry on a wide variety of subjects — his book Big Breath of a Wish was nominated for the Governor General’s Award — his hockey poetry gets a lot of well-deserved attention. I can’t think of many poets, though, who have had a single poem become the subject of a Canadian Press wire story. A quick Google search brought up 46 hits, and I’m sure this will increase over the coming days as this story is making the news across Canada and into the US. How cool is that?

One of my favourite poets is Richard Harrison. While he writes poetry on a wide variety of subjects — his book Big Breath of a Wish was nominated for the Governor General’s Award — his hockey poetry gets a lot of well-deserved attention. I can’t think of many poets, though, who have had a single poem become the subject of a Canadian Press wire story. A quick Google search brought up 46 hits, and I’m sure this will increase over the coming days as this story is making the news across Canada and into the US. How cool is that?

The great buzz is about Harrison’s latest poem “NH Elegy” which he wrote in response to the cancellation of the NHL season. The poem was published online a couple of days ago, the one-year anniversary of the start of last year’s playoffs, and the story got picked up by media far and wide. This poem is the final piece of what Harrison now refers to as his Stanley Cup Trilogy. The first two, “Stanley Cup” and “View from the Top,” can be found in Harrison’s celebrated book of hockey poems Hero of the Play, released last year in an extended 10th anniversary edition with an added section appropriately entitled “The Hero in Overtime.”

Next week, Harrison and I will both be attending a conference at Bridgewater State College where I will be giving a paper on Harrison’s hockey poems. Canada’s Game? Critical Perspectives on Ice Hockey and Identity will be the second interdisciplinary, international hockey conference I’ve been to in the last several year. The first was in Halifax and it was a terrific event — I got to meet Jean Beliveau, after all. I’m sure this one will be just as interesting.

Like Harrison points out in his interview with the Canadian Press, this is the moment that most of us are in mourning for a lost springtime ritual, the NHL playoffs. Last year’s playoffs hit close to home, too. Calgary wound up in the finals (though I am an Edmonton boy, I had to cheer for the other Alberta team) and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning played for the UVM Catamounts and still has a home here in South Burlington. It’s hard to go from a playoff series like that to nothing.

While this is clearly a bad time for professional hockey, it’s a great time for hockey literature — not to mention, of course, the Canadian women’s hockey team. Spotted Cow Press is about two weeks away from unveiling its reprint of ICE: New Writing on Hockey, with a new introduction by Roy MacGregor. I also received an e-mail from New Brunswick poet Matt Robinson, whose collection of hockey poetry entitled no cage contains a stare that well will be coming out this fall from ECW Press. Make sure to watch for both of those books.

So, with no further ado, courtesy of Richard Harrison and abebooks.com, here’s the poem that’s voicing so beautifully what many of us are feeling right now.

NH Elegy

Once, men came home from war,

or from the sides of family graves,

to lace up skates and play for it

as if everything could be remade

in a silver bowl passed hand to hand.

For years it etched the seasons

with their winning names,

and took the touch of triumph

into each triumphant house. It paused

just once – to mourn the dead, and

stayed unmarked to mark their passing.

Today, left idle in the Hall of Fame,

while rich men quarrel to no profit at its base,

untouched upon its plinth it stands.

And all who see it can tell you now

how a fallen thing is one that no one holds.

Richard Harrison

P.S. If you’re interested in picking up any of Richard’s books, all poetry books are 30% off this month at Northwest Passages

4 comments

1 scribblingwoman { 04.09.05 at 10:05 pm }

A Canadian post

Click for larger view. The Paul Martin who is not our Prime Minister let me know that he has…

2 English 180 - Paul Martin { 04.11.05 at 1:11 pm }

Richard Harrison’s visit

A reminder that Richard Harrison will be coming to our class on Wednesday April 20th. I am making this an open class, so you are welcome to invite anyone you know who would be interested in hearing him read…

3 NH Elegy: hockey poetry hits the news { 06.07.05 at 8:44 pm }

NH Elegy: hockey poetry hits the news

NH Elegy: hockey poetr…

4 Hockey Jerseys { 09.23.09 at 12:49 pm }

Don’t come across poetry too much in hockey! Maybe too much sweat and testosterone 😉