“The Start of My Own Political Campaign,” a poem from Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden was published in Fredericton’s St. Thomas University’s Nashwaak Review, volume 30/31, in 2013.
Mahler and Freud Meet in Leiden discusses problems that are examined in Richard Wagner’s tetralogy, The Ring of the Nibelung, and the problems presented by the composer himself, his work, and the influence of his music, the most compelling difficulty being Wagner’s anti-Semitism. Integrated into the discussion, however, are many interrelated references to other works of music in the book, with reference to Chopin occurring several times.
The poem deals with the delight that deliberate ignorance seems to thrive on, so much so that history becomes the rationale for morally inexcusable behaviour and actions, including casting away books, into the metaphorical fire, because they are inconvenient to the prevailing sense of wisdom.
The poem was written in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the months of September and October, 2008. At the time I was reading a loaned copy of Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style, which I admired so much that I bought a copy in Provincetown for my library. I have it still, and my admiration for Rosen has continued to grow.
Between the poem’s inception and its completion, I was back in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, where I was the municipality’s chief administrative officer.
It was a demanding several weeks. The Building Canada Fund grant applications for infrastructure monies of $8 millions were submitted. On behalf of Mayor Jed Purcell and the town council, I gave the public presentation of the proposed strategic plan. The Flakeboard mill, one of the town’s two major employers, continued to downsize. The annual meeting of the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick, which I both attended and participated in, took place at the Algonquin in St. Andrews. I continued to work on a course for level two of the National Advanced Certificate in Local Authority Administration, offered through Dalhousie University, in conjunction with the University of Alberta. My immediate neighbour, Clarence Hatt, suffered a heart attack and died instantly. I wrote a column for the Saint Croix Courier. Interactions with the Canadian Border Services Agency, relating to construction of the third international bridge crossing to Maine, continued. Susan Gillmor, the wife of my past mayor, Allan Gillmor, died after a long battle with illness. The crack house on Green Street, which had been Jed Purcell’s boyhood home, finally was levelled and peace restored to the neighbourhood. A significant loan guarantee for the Chocolate Museum was finalized. The lease for new town hall quarters in the historic Ganong chocolate factory building downtown was signed.
All this over the course of twelve days. And then on to North Truro on Cape Cod, where the poem was to be completed.
The Start of My Own Political Campaign
It’s my psyche’s last day of liberty. Already overnight
The blinding blur of the regular day’s trivia
And prevailing demands resurfaced on the wrong side
Of sleep. It’s the resumption of my mind’s querulous
Testimony of discontent. Chopin’s harmonic thought
And the essays of Charles Rosen will find no welcome at
The place I am to return to. In truth, neither will I;
Nor, any more, do I look for it. Where history has become
Excuse rather than exemplar, when only the tides rise and fall
In the mangled river, the rallying cry most often heard is
‘We don’t need book-learning—all we need is common sense.’