In 2009 I worked as the chief administrative officer of St. Stephen, New Brunswick. That February, Mayor Jed Purcell, prominent businessmen, and I, all steering the town’s civic centre project were preparing for a meeting on funding with Premier Shawn Graham. Mid-morning, the mayor and I drove to Fredericton, over icy and slush-covered roads, checked in at the Crowne Plaza (the Beaverbrook), and met as well with Minister of Transportation Denis Landry on funding for decaying roads. Next morning, our businessmen, the mayor, and I met with the Premier and members of his staff. The Premier, well briefed and having already consulted with the federal government’s regional cabinet minister Greg Thompson, had a strong predisposition to contribute provincial funding to the civic centre project.
I thus wrote Chrysoglott while in Fredericton on municipal business. Unusually, it arrived complete. I made small improvements to the opening three and a half years later, in Edmonton, on the day I finished reading Dickens’s Little Dorrit. I would have written this work in the evening. Inspiration is stimulation of the mind. The former is active by ensuring the latter, on a regular, recurrent basis, preferably daily. In other words, life is inspiration.
Chrysoglott was published in the University of British Columbia’s long established periodical Canadian Literature in its issue 216 in 2013. Canadian Literature was founded in 1959, its first issue, and 72 subsequent ones, edited by George Woodcock.
The Wurlitzer end of Omphalic fertility,
Whitened in the Fredericton snows, the theatrical
Tracery of fools altered to ice as car wheels are spun,
And slide into the intersection. Oedipus looks out
Over the frozen St. John River; Gretchen
Seeks her lost child on the bridge to Nashwaak;
Marco Polo reaches the Friendship Store
On Albert Street, and purchases ramen in bulk.
In the Gösser of memorialized time, the Urquell
Of history, little Bardolino plays on the lunar palate
And readies the receptacle for the halls of power.
I seldom need to analyze my poetic work in advance of composition, which most always springs from the first line, once it is established, and whose creative origins, if not their demands on subsequent creative processes, remain largely a mystery to me. The construction in Chrysoglott is 4+3+4(2+2), to produce an elliptical arrival of the conclusion. Enjambment is employed to introduce new concepts in the fifth and tenth lines. There is considerable use of internal alliteration, except in the two final lines, where it is terminal.
The metrical line in Chrysoglott is iambic hexameter. Tone, place, and time of year are established in lines 1-3, and modern allusions presented in lines 7-8. This hexameter encloses three lines of pentameter (4-6, with the classical allusions), allowing for a slight tightening and acceleration of the movement of the poem. The conclusion consists of two lines in heptameter, a slight broadening of the tempo of the line, to allow some expansiveness of the summarizing statement. The speed of the feet are varied by means of vowel length, selection of consonants, and alteration of the rhythmic stress in the metrical unit. The final two lines, for example, are longer in length, but read more quickly, than those preceding them.