Questions and Answers
What inspired “Acorn’s Third World”?
In “Acorn’s Third World” I think a number of things were happening at the same time. First an image of the poet Milton Acorn himself whom I knew briefly; I’d met him at a League of Canadian Poets’ meeting, in Toronto, sometime in the early 80s. And he always impressed me because he was a down-to-earth poet; and his politics intrigue me, partly because of my own background, my interest in working peoples, those like the ones I was close to in the sugar-cane environment in Guyana I grew up in, and then, too, what I’ve experienced in Canada. In the poem I’ve imagined life in other Third World places, the Americas mostly—and Canada is also part of the Americas—and I seem to want to juxtapose everything, if only unconsciously in the poem.
What poetic techniques did you use in “Acorn’s Third World”?
I use the personal “I” to give the poem immediacy, as I address the persona of Milton Acorn (he is known as the “people’s poet,” even when he was alive). So here, then, I am allowing the voice to make some kind of transference as I flit from place to place and bring the Milton Acorn persona with me and making him identify not only with Canada, but with people elsewhere, in the Americas and the Caribbean. In an odd way I want him to become an international poet, if only in my personal sense. I also bring in elemental aspects, like “hinterland forest” and “jaguars,” because of awareness of the changing environment also, with everything being integrated. It’s not just an urban or city poem, but a poem aiming for some kind of universality, with everything becoming associative.
In terms of form, once more it is free verse, with longer stanzas and specific line indentations—but without too many looping lines. I prefer average line-lengths and a specific stanzaic patterns to give symmetry, one which I think suits the poem best: it’s the best way to achieve my poetic effect.