Then Now

By Daphne Marlatt

Then Now
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Then Now is a book about memory, family, catastrophe, immigration, and colonialism prompted by the discovery of letters written by Marlatt’s father, Arthur Buckle. Buckle, a young chartered accountant, left England in the early 1930s to join a British accounting firm in multiracial ... Read more


Overview

Then Now is a book about memory, family, catastrophe, immigration, and colonialism prompted by the discovery of letters written by Marlatt’s father, Arthur Buckle. Buckle, a young chartered accountant, left England in the early 1930s to join a British accounting firm in multiracial Penang, Malaysia, where he continued living and working, as well as marrying, until going on leave in 1941. Throughout his time in Penang, he wrote regular letters “home. ” As the years progress, a sense of looming war begins to permeate them. The Buckle family returned to Penang postwar, and Marlatt spent almost five years of her childhood there. Reading her father’s letters decades after their composition prompted the surfacing of memories overlaid by later ones from several adult returns, and she began writing poems in response to excerpts from the letters, writing from a sense of place and home on Canada’s West Coast now on the brink of global climate change. Throughout, “There Then” permeates any “Here Now” of immigrant consciousness and highlights the impermanent quality of “home. ”

grateful for the coffee
Malay pan-roasted kopi-O dark & sweet tho’ likely Nescafe’s thin brown with powdered milk & sugar then for him reminder of home forgetting way back Arab culture import localized we cling to what’s familiar kopi kedai now on Beach Street’s my daily stop provisional home taste fragrant comfort sweet on tongue waylays delays any long view forward to this island port street drowned in rising global warm
—from Then Now

Daphne Marlatt

Daphne Marlatt was at the centre of the West Coast poetry movement of the 1960s, studying at the University of British Columbia and with many of Donald Allen’s New American Poets, most notably Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan. Her early literary associations with the loosely affiliated TISH group encouraged her nonconformist approach to language and form. Her unique disposition toward language shapes and is shaped by her commitment to exploring and honouring silenced histories and experiences. For her, writing has been a lifelong ethical project, deeply engaged with feminism, immigrant experiences, and ecological issues. Her innovations in the prose poem form have influenced an entire generation (and beyond) of Canadian poets.

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