Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kerri Cull on Michael Crummey's "Her Mark".

Her Mark (from Hard Light)

I, Ellen Rose of Western Bay in the Dominion of Newfoundland. Married woman, mother, stranger to my grandchildren. In consideration of natural love and affection, hereby give and make over unto my daughter Minnie Jane Crummey of Western Bay, a meadow garden situated at Riverhead, bounded to the north and east by Loveys Estate, to the south by John Lynch's land, to the west by the local road leaving countrywards. Bounded above by the sky, by the blue song of angels and God's stars. Below by the bones of those who made me.
     I leave nothing else. Every word I have spoken the wind has taken, as it will take me. As it will take my grandchildren's children, their head full of fragments and my face not among those. The day will come when we are not remembered, I have wasted no part of my life in trying to make it otherwise.
     In witness thereof I have set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of December, One thousand Nine hundred Thirty Three.

Ellen X Rose

Newfoundland and Labrador seems to undulate at the eastern edge of Canada like a myth: the row houses of St. John's overlook the ocean that from time-to-time seethes with anger; the eastern coast of Labrador is the shore for seal carcasses, cause of death unknown; Labrador West disappears into Quebec as quickly as you can say iron ore; and a lone polar bear vanishes into the water off the coast of St. Anthony, while Gros Morne watches majestically and then disappears in a fog. One writer who I deeply admire, whose love of language and appreciation of landscape never ceases to inspire, whose meditations on culture and the mythology of memory is Michael Crummey. This short prose narrative illustrates the theme of work and the power of landscape that has shaped a people. Like Ellen Rose, my grandfather never did learn how to write. He could write two words only—his name—and all that is left of him in my house is his dictionary where he signed his name in ink around the time of Confederation, around the time my father was born. In a province like this where the work culture has left us little free time, the writing, just like the people, has been shaped and in some cases defined by the landscape, what it has given us but also what it has taken away.


Kerri Cull, originally from Corner Brook, NL, has had the pleasure of studying under John Steffler, Randall Maggs, Mary Dalton, and Stephanie McKenzie. After completing a Master of Arts at Memorial University in 2004, she worked mainly in radio and print media, and spent a lot of time taking in the music and words of the St. John’s arts scene before moving to Labrador City where she teaches, writes and tries to stay warm. Soak, her debut poetry collection, will be released in 2012 by Breakwater Books.


Kitty Lewis said...

Hard Light was published by Brick Books in 1998 and is still in print.

Lemon Hound said...

I'm wondering if this is a warm up to the novel for Crummey. Is that how you read it? There is, as you say, such a strong narrative, such a sense of place.

Nice post, Kerri.

Kerri said...

Thank you. I think his poems, so deeply connected to his Newfoundland identity, definitely acted as a preface to his novels. His voice hasn't changed. He is one of my favorites.