To me, poetry has always been about painting a photograph with words. It is the desire to stay connected from a distance, the desire to share small moments. As someone who never knew her grandfather, I see him as a postcard, rare collected mementos and fragmented images. My grandfather was my primary source of motivation for this thesis and collection of poems. In wanting to learn more about him, I started turning to poetry to discover not only aspects of his personality, but the lifestyle he led in Glace Bay on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Most of my information came from stories past down from my mother. Other poems are pure imagination.
As well as the need to catalogue beautiful things was the need to record a history. The coal mines my grandfather worked are now shut down, but as a miner, the seams were a large part of his life. The coal miner’s lifestyle had a great impact on my mother’s childhood. She describes my grandfather as a strong and quiet man, as someone endearing, a figurehead of “Daddy.” She has never used the word “hero,” but the romantic stories about a large Catholic family surviving on the cliffs of the Atlantic made him seem so to me. In mining for my grandfather, I have come to see him as a working class hero. As such, my goal was to portray him in this romantic, albeit gritty, light. He is a flawed hero, not the white-toothed, burly superheroes of the comic books, but one who became a hero by surviving ruthless conditions and possessing a gentleness reminiscent of St. Francis.
In addition to my continuing fascination with my family’s connection to Nova Scotia, is our strong connection to the sea and what it brings. Besides providing a source of myth and beauty, it represents a constant source of both threat and provision. It has healing powers, yet also has the distressing ability to destroy. I wished to convey the connection between the composition of water, the composition of coal, the composition of a recipe and how it contains things from the sea to create the food we eat, the composition of a poem, and the composition of a family. I wanted to explore what holds all these things together.
Lastly, attached to the land and ocean are lighthouses, almost all of which are automated, rendering lightkeepers obsolete. Lighthouses represent a romance and history, with which many are unfamiliar. I wanted to bring to readers the sensual and practical importance of lighthouses in the Maritime culture. It was my goal to represent both the love and the war between man and sea. Brought together with my grandfather and other aspects of my family history, I hoped to collect a few mysteries of eastern Canada and create a romantic hero out of the past.