Suknaski, Andrew, Jr.
SUKNASKI, Andrew, Jr.
Pseudonyms: Jessy Kid Dalton. Nationality: Canadian. Born: Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan, 30 July 1942. Education: Ambassador School, Wood Mountain; L.V. Rogers High School, Nelson, British Columbia; Kootenay School of Art, Nelson, 1962–63, 1966–67, diploma in fine arts 1967; University of Victoria, British Columbia, 1964–65; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design, 1965; Notre Dame University, Nelson, 1966–67; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1967–68; Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, 1968–69. Career: Founder and editor, Elfin Plot, 1969–74, and Sundog, 1973–76, and Deodar Shadow Press, 1970–71, Anak Press, 1971–76, and Sundog Press, 1973–78, all Wood Mountain. Since 1982 editor, Three Legged Coyote, Wood Mountain. Writer-in-residence, St. John's College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, 1977–78. Awards: Canada Council grant, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982; Canadian Authors Association prize, 1978; Saskatchewan Culture and Youth grant, 1981. Address: Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan S0H 4L0, Canada.
This Shadow of Eden, Once. Wood Mountain, Deodar Shadow Press, 1970.
Circles. Wood Mountain, Deodar Shadow Press, 1970.
In Mind ov Xrossroads ov Mythologies. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1971.
Rose Way in the East. Toronto, Ganglia Press, 1972.
Old Mill. Vancouver, Blewointmentpress, 1972.
The Nightwatchman. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1972.
The Zen Pilgrimage. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1972.
Y th Evolution into Ruenz. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1972.
Four Parts Sand: Concrete Poems, with others. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1972.
Wood Mountain Poems. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1973; expanded edition, edited by Al Purdy, Toronto, Macmillan, 1976.
Suicide Notes, Book One. Wood Mountain, Sundog Press, 1973.
Phillip Well. Prince George, British Columbia, College of New Caledonia, 1973.
These Fragments I've Gathered for Ezra. Edinburg, Texas, Funch Press, 1973.
Leaving. Seven Person, Alberta, Repository Press, 1974.
On First Looking Down from Lion's Gate Bridge. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1974; revised edition, Windsor, Ontario, Black Moss Press, 1976.
Blind Man's House. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1975.
Leaving Wood Mountain. Wood Mountain, Sundog Press. 1975.
Writing on Stone: Poemdrawings 1966–1976. Wood Mountain, Anak Press, 1976.
Octomi. Saskatoon, Thistledown Press, 1976.
Almighty Voice. Toronto, Dreadnaught Press, 1977.
Moses Beauchamp. Winnipeg, Turnstone Press, 1978.
The Ghosts Call You Poor. Toronto, Macmillan, 1978.
Two for Father, with George Morrissette. Wood Mountain, Sundog Press, 1978.
East of Myloona. Saskatoon, Thistledown Press, 1979.
In the Name of Narid: New Poems. Erin, Ontario, Porcupine's Quill, 1981.
Montage for an Interstellar Cry. Winnipeg, Turnstone Press, 1982.
The Land They Gave Away: Selected and New Poems. Edmonton, NeWest Press, 1982.
Silk Trail. Toronto, Nightwood, 1985.
Don'tcha Know the North Wind and You in My Hair, with others(produced Saskatoon, 1978)
Translator, The Shadow of Sound, by Andrei Voznesensky. Prince George, British Columbia, College of New Caledonia, 1975.*
Critical Studies: "Writing along the Road to Wood Mountain" by Eli Mandel, in Another Time, Erin, Ontario, Press Porcépic, 1977; "Shadows of Our Ancestors" by Harvey Spak, and "Ghostly Voices" by Stephen Scobie, both in NeWest ReView (Edmonton), October 1978; by Kristjana Gunnars, in Arts Manitoba (Winnipeg), fall 1983; "Voices from the Canadian Steppes: Ukrainian Elements in Andrew Suknaski's Poetry" by Jars Balan, in Studia Ucrainica (Ottowa), 4, 1988; "Andrew Suknaski's 'Wood Mountain Time' and the Chronotype of Multiculturalism" by Dawn Morgan, in Mosaic, 29(3), September 1996.
Andrew Suknaski, Jr., comments:
(1980) 1. Concerns: the meaning of home and a vaguely divided guilt; guilt for what happened to the Indian, his land taken, imprisoned on his reserve; and guilt because to feel this guilt is a betrayal of what you ethnically are, the son of a homesteader and his wife who must be rightfully honored in one's mythology.
2. Origins: mythic mainsprings—the meaning of self: self your place of birth, self the proximity of the buried to the living of that place, self in home … being your dreamtime (tribal history, the ancestral way of life—that place where you leave going beyond to become faceless … mind and heart telescoped, forever yearning to return … home).
3. Naming the lost: in the western prairie labyrinth where the poet as art casualty must retie the severed threads: guilt, betrayal, and populist myth on the margins of the dreaming utopia that victimizes one naming the lost to arrest niggling visions of where the godly becomes monstrous, where reality becomes myth … as Leslie Fiedler warns, where myth often victimizes the innocent as one's humanity is shortchanged by the ticket taker at the circus gate—that point of entry to our nightmares and otherness.
(1985) 4. Definition of West: divining for West/part 2 of celestial mechanics/life fragment in progress … drift of word, humanity, and myth from Sanskrit Narayan, "Man-Path," to Amurru, "Westerners"—mountain Amorites west from Akkad and Sumer; drift of etymon anchoring mythic West and mariners … from Islamic trade secret in name of Al-Gharb, "The West," edge of the known world to become Phoenician Algarve guarded by Pillars of Hercules; from ne plus ultra to plus ultra .. . "More Beyond"/dream … there is a beyond … perhaps another place and North West Passage; the search, the beginning in journeys beyond and back home by water … binary home/old and new … the new West … from dream of ancient vestal virgins illuminating heart of the old city to counterfeit dream of new vestal virgins—the brokers of Wall Street … West no longer a simple definition but a lifelong project and projection along the map of word and flesh.* * *
"If Canada ever needed an argument in defence of the regional writer, Andrew Suknaski is it," a reviewer once wrote. Suknaski has taken the Canadian prairies as his subject. Of Polish-Ukrainian parentage, he was born on a farm outside the village of Wood Mountain in southwestern Saskatchewan. He writes about his background and about prairie life in the past and present: the endless plains, Indians, eastern European settlers, Mounties, Canadians, Americans. Reading Wood Mountain Poems makes one aware of the curious psychological fact that, if space has expanded in this region, time has contracted, so that the past and the present are ever present while Toronto and Vancouver are light-years distant.
The poems in The Ghosts Call You Poor take the form of jottings, rambling letters, and documentations, among other things, but all are concerned with what sociologists call "marginalized people." The Indians and Métis are preeminently among such people, as Suknaski shows in "Dreaming of the Northwest Passage":
the native showed us the way
the native drew the first map on sand and earth
the northern esquimaux drew in snow
and did with small shale cairns
what contour lines do
to indicate mountains
for scottish and british explorers
the indian showed us the way to the heart
of the prairie
and distant mountains
There is more rhetoric than drama in Suknaski's poetry, more feeling for great masses of people than for individuals, more a sense of summing up a patchwork past than a sense of signaling the presence of a new society or a significant new beginning. Only in one of his lesser-known books, Leaving, does Suknaski write about his travels throughout Europe and the East. The poems here have a bright, light quality that is entirely lacking in the dark and somber prairie poems.
Montage for an Interstellar Cry offers an elaborate montage that is rather like a radio documentary poem for many voices. It covers such particulars as MX missile testing, Wood Mountain, Pinochet's Chile, prehistoric man, the Maritime-born astronomer Simon Newcomb, and the frustrations of life at the fringes of cities. The work resonates with the sounds of the prairies in the past and the present. The sense of place has been caught in the sense of eternity.
Silk Trail is another prairie documentary that goes from a creation myth through inchoate silence to the presence of animals and then to the aboriginal inhabitants and their Turtle Island. It ends with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway's "silk trains," which provided pretty much nonstop travel for precious bales of raw silk being taken from the East Coast to the West. Thus the prairies are caught in a silken web as well as in Suknaski's imagination.
It is difficult to imagine what if anything someone from a region other than the three Prairie Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba—and perhaps the northern U.S. plains—could make of Suknaski's books of poetry. Perhaps his poetry does not "travel." But through his verse one may travel to the prairies and glean a sense of what life is like in this region, which the widely traveled newspaperman Harrison Salisbury called "the most exciting in the world."
George Woodcock, the poet and critic, was so impressed with Suknaski's achievement that he created a word to describe it. Woodcock called it "geo-poetry" to draw attention to its preoccupation with geographical and related factors. Thus, Suknaski is the geo-poet of the Canadian prairies.
—John Robert Colombo