The Burial of the Dead

Part one of a series “covering” T. S. Eliot’s most famous poem In 1996, the Academy of American Poets branded April National Poetry Month in the United States, and the …

Part one of a series “covering” T. S. Eliot’s most famous poem

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets branded April National Poetry Month in the United States, and the League of Canadian Poets introduced the concept in Canada two years later. According to the Academy of American Poets’ FAQ, April was chosen because after consulting with poets, booksellers, librarians, and teachers, it seemed the month when “poetry could be celebrated with the highest level of participation.” It has grown into such a successful North American institution, I’m actually surprised it’s only twenty years old this year. Perhaps because poets and the people who love them often find themselves overwhelmed when so many book launches, poetry readings, recitation contests, and po-biz parties all happen at the same time, #NatPoMo reminds many of us of T. S. Eliot’s famous line “April is the cruellest month.”

We decided to ask five different Canadian poets to revisit the source of that line, “The Waste Land,” widely cited as Eliot’s Modernist masterpiece, a hot mess of scholarly allusions and stylistic innovation. The poets were each given a section to interpret as freely as they wished, keeping the original title, but invited to riff on or even argue against the content in their own voices.

Ben Ladouceur is the first member of our Waste Land cover band. Happy Poetry Month.

—Damian Rogers, Poetry Editor

At last it’s here the bullet I must bite.
All cities unreal now and all months cruel.
I had such a good run though didn’t I.
No title no wristwatch no dependents.
Now I’m a bullet-chewing salesman.
I bring home bacon bullets fog and bread.
A title on a billion business cards.
Dogs rush in when I leave the door ajar.
They read the leaves of my gunpowder tea.
When they wince I believe they wince for me.
One dog I fed a pickled mango to.
And then she died a pickled mango death.
When something’s dead you have to bury it.
Or else you’re going to learn the smell of it.

Ben Ladouceur
Ben Ladouceur won the 2013 Earle Birney Poetry Prize. His first collection of poems, Otter, was selected as a best book of 2015 by the National Post, and nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

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