I don't read poetry very much. But I found this little volume at a used book sale for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and I picked it up, mainly because I liked the cover. I was also intrigued by the accolade from Nellie McClung that is printed on the inside front cover. Nellie did so much to further women's rights so when she praises someone I pay attention. I can't quote the whole passage but she talks about poems being cut out of newspapers by people who keep the poem and look at it and refer to it in times of need. She then says:
Edna Jaques is such a poet, a scrap-book poet, a loose-leaf poet, writing every day the things she sees and feels.
I can remember my mother cutting little sayings and poems out of the paper just like this. Who knows, she might have cut out one of Edna Jaques? Certainly some of the poems sounded familiar to me. Or perhaps they were in some of my grade school readers. Whatever the case the cadence and wording struck a chord with me even though they are very old-fashioned.
Jaques was apparently quite successful as a poet during her lifetime. According to an article in Issue #134 of Canadian LIterature, in 1952 she sold 5000 volumes and realized a profit of $1000. But her popularity did not redeem her style for the literary critics of the time. In 1935 E. K. Brown wrote this:
The critic need concern himself with mediocre literature only when he has before
him a book to which the reading public, or a substantial fraction of it, is disposed
to assign a false importance. Mrs. Edna Jaques' My Kitchen Window is such a
book. . . . Love, patriotism, even religion itself, take on a kind of cosiness in her
verses as they, doubtless, do in the minds of a multitude of Canadians. Her verses
are an expression of the ordinary self of the Canadian middle class, that is to say,
of the immense majority of Canadians.
Possibly Paul Hiebert based his "sweet songstress of Saskatchewan", Sarah Binks, on Jaques but if so, then he was poking fun at her, not lauding her. Today Edna Jaques seems to be almost forgotten. When I was registering this book I couldn't find it on any of the Amazon site or in Google Book Search. There are a few internet mentions about her and the one article that I have mentioned and that's it. It seems a shame that she is not accorded the same fame as, say, Robert Service whose poems are pretty old-fashioned and could be called doggerel by some.
I'm very glad I stumbled across this volume. Some of my favourite poems were:
The Song My Kettle Sings at p. 26
Three Beggars at p. 29
Getting Ready for Winter at p. 43
My Garden at p. 59
Prairie Bred at p. 71
My Dog at p. 73
Here's a few verses from Prairie Bred:
If you are prairie-bred..there seems to be
A sort of fellowship that speaks to me:
You talk of wind, and I can feel the sting
Of drifting soil that darkens all the Spring;
You speak of dawn, and I can see the sky
Flaming with light to drive the darkness by.
You talk of wheat..and I can see it wave,
And smell the nutty frangrance that it gave
Back to the soil, like incense on the air.
I hear the hum of binders everywhere,
The red of briers glowing in the wheat,
The smell of sod..the quivering tides of heat.
Released 6 yrs ago (11/23/2011 UTC) at Window Park, corner of Portage and Carlton in Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
I left this book propped up against a pillar facing Portage Avenue. This release is for the Monopoly Challenge for the last round in which Train Team landed on the Rainbow's End square which completed all the pink squares. My team-mate keeta1 made a great Rainbow release so I chose to make a pink release. The cover doesn't show up on-line anywhere but it shows a window, framed with pink curtains, looking out on a view of mountains. Anyone who is more than 50 years old knows exactly the shade of pink and the style of curtains. But it wasn't just because of the pink curtains that I chose this book; you need a window to look out of to see a rainbow. And what better place to leave this book than in a park called Window Park. Hope the finder enjoys the book and the concept of BookCrossing.