Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Gaston Miron, Artisan of the Emerging Voice

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Gaston Miron, Artisan of the Emerging Voice

Article excerpt

Gaston Miron was a poet and it is as a poet that he would wish to be remembered. He died on 14 December 1996 and his funeral was a state occasion. In May 1999, the Colloque des jeunes chercheurs européens en littérature québécoise honoured his memory in Genoa. The three principal speakers, Jacques Allard (Université du Québec à Montréal), Jacques Barrère (Centre culturel franco-italien Galliera) and Marie-Andrée Beaudet (Université Laval) severally paid their tributes. Marie-Andrée Beaudet was Miron's partner in his last years and spoke sensitively of his contribution as a poet and thinker. The Hexagone publishing house marked its fortieth anniversary with a deluxe edition of l'Homme rapaillé, revised and annotated by the author. Miron was co-founder of the Hexagone in 1953 and closely associated with it for thirty years. Prior to the 1994 edition, l'Homme rapaillé had sold 65,000 copies since the first version of 1970. Why did this writer whose lifetime's creative output fills one slim volume receive the highest accolades in Canada and Europe?

I offer here a personal evaluation of Gaston Miron's role in the emergence of a distinctive Quebec voice. I draw in part on a filmed interview with the poet made on 18 June 1986 by the Film Unit at the University of Birmingham. Such an evaluation is not simple. Miron did not always find it easy to express himself freely. He has analysed painfully and painstakingly the colonial complex which induces aphasia and self-depreciation, and which variously impedes selfdisclosure. In his published interviews he was sometimes encouraged to venture into areas or offer comments where he was uncomfortable and which did not reflect his true interests.

My interview with Miron of June 1986 of about sixty minutes' duration is more in the nature of a conversation than other printed interviews. The result is that Miron is more verbose but more relaxed, less academic but no less profound. A transcript of the sound track might reveal some of the lack of polish but also the spontaneity of Miron's lengthy asides. But it is not true to say that the interview rambles or lacks shape. Looking back, I marvel at the freedom the producer, Paul Morby, gave me. I did not even submit a list of the questions I proposed to put to Miron. In addition, the producer could probably follow only with difficulty the conduct of the conversation, engaged as he was with directing his three cameras. He was certainly taken by surprise when Miron produced a harmonica and sang, played and danced vigorously with his feet. With little intervention from me, the interview holds together marvellously and grows organically in a way that we had only dimly foreseen. It differs from the interview first published in Maintenant which is a scholarly discussion of the language issue in Quebec. The June 1986 interview deals with Miron's strategy as a writer and is close to the poet's other published prose writings: 'Note d'un homme d'ici', 'Aliénation délirante', 'Un long chemin', 'Ma bibliothèque idéale', 'Situation de notre poésie' and 'Notes sur le poème et le non-poème'.1 It has some affinity too with the luminous and elegant Les Signes de l'identité, Miron's speech at the presentation to him of the Prix Athanase-David in October 1983 and published in 1991. The marked difference between my interview and the prose listed here is that, although Miron had complained of the time of day (it was recorded late morning) and of not being too hopeful of what might come of it, there is much less emphasis on the pathology of the Quebec writer, the non-poème, a greater sense of buoyancy and achievement and an eloquent tribute to those who have inspired him and to those he consistently calls 'les camarades'. Patricia Smart quotes, in English, words attributed to Miron which stress the collective nature of the Quebec enterprise: 'In order to flower, poetry needs a land, a space, a light, a milieu where it can put down roots and a great deal of friendship'. …

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