Gilean Douglas, Seascape with Figures

She's something of a cult figure on the West Coast, Gilean Douglas. Her regular pieces in the Victoria Times-Colonist in years long gone by were treasured by her readers, and they were genuinely unlike anything else you would have seen in a BC newspaper. Dispatches from another age, in some ways, but also crafted as finely -- though in smaller form -- as the territorial or touristic dispatches of Edward Hoagland and his ilk that appeared in places like Harper's. Douglas, though, lived in place and wrote about where she lived, minutely, rather than travelling with Hoaglandian machismo. This, to me, is a very good thing indeed.

Douglas's books are out of print, unbelievably (to me, at least), and while I've had some trouble personally with capturing out of books the sense of pleasure that her contemporary readers found in her articles, I've had some good luck now with her poetry, though not uncomplicatedly so.

Specifically, I found Seascape with Figures, published in 1967 by The Prairie Press in Iowa City, to be a pleasant enough book. Its pages include some keen observation, some appropriately thoughtful rumination, and distinct stylistic grace. In other words, I responded middlingly to her verse, just as I have to her prose.

Until two of the final poems, which struck me as utter gems. I can do no better justice to Douglas or her book than to quote one of these poems here in full, and ask you to read it slowly to yourself:
"I would come back"

Life has not been kind to me.
I have suffered want and cold;
I have lost, I have bled,
I have left my best unsaid;
I am growing greyly old
In a harsh futility.

But I would come back once more,--
Live again each crippled day--
Just to smell forest loam,
Just to watch a lark fly home;
I would walk a rougher way
To hear sea wind on shore.

Comments

fiona-h said…
very nice - thanks for posting that
Sue said…
Just finished reading 'Writing Nature Finding Home'. Picked it up at a second hand store. I had never heard of her, but now I am an avid fan and want more. Thank you for sharing this.
richard said…
I'm so glad to hear this, Sue! It's always great news when someone like Gilean Douglas gets a little larger audience. Spread the word, spread the word....

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