In 1836 an elephant drowned off the coast of New Brunswick. Poet Richard Outram explores the significance of this bizarre occurrence in his brilliant new volume of poetry, Mogul Recollected.
About the Book
These witty and profound poems recreate the dismal conditions of Mogul’s existence before he plunged to his death during a ship fire. Some are told from the point of view of Mogul himself, others from the perspective of ruthless trainers and circus owners. Recasting the tragedy as an inversion of the Noah’s Ark story, Outram delineates with startling clarity man’s betrayal of beast.
Read an Excerpt
Did not survive fire and water, nor earth, nor air;
not the cumbrous elements. Nor did it become
quintessence, numberless as thou seest. No.
It is closed, clothed in darkness for all time.
Mogul’s eye was the still centre, the sometime
calm in the loomed elephant rage to be.
Wherein it mirrored the creature sun.
Mogul’s eye had looked on eternal light
grooming the endless orient riverine grasslands;
piercing the overlapped canopy of the felled forest;
burning stark verticals in high mountain passes;
knifing through chinks in the slats of a boxcar,
holding the motes mingled in shafts of gold;
tangling snarls in the steel mesh of enclosures;
rebounding blaze from a bucket of living water;
quenched forever at last in Penobscot Bay.
Mogul, alone among other beasts,
in common with man, could weep,
and did, real tears from his small eye.
In common with man, not without cause.
He drowned in salt water.
Being not man nor angel but beast, Mogul
saw not through his eye by with it life
in the myriad present: which is immortal.
And he beheld, as he was beholden to,
what he became: his one death.
Praise for Mogul Recollected
‘At first glance, this book seems simply to exploit an absurd and obscure moment in history. But Outram illuminates that moment and gives it meaning. He tells Mogul’s story with grace and humour and majesty, in language that sometimes echoes Milton and Blake. And those who lament the passing of rhyme in Canadian poetry will be happy to see it used often, with considerable wit, in several pieces here.’
‘These poems unsettle us with their wit and outrage, and with bardic visionary power and love move us to recognize the beauty and suffering of all creation.’
‘These are clearly the poems of a virtuoso. Few poets now writing (here or elsewhere) have displayed throughout their work such an accurate sense of rhythm. I think of an earlier collection -- Man in Love -- and such poems as Dr Doolittle and Spring at the Cottage, in which the unapologetically latinate phrasing moves as nimbly as the Monarch butterfly on its cover. InMogul Recollected this same ease of breath is evident in a wide variety of forms, from the biblically weighted The Prophet of Penobscot Bay to the scat-snappy The Insane Root.’
‘At the most lyrical of moments, fractured time, objects, and idiosyncratic details are telescoped and set awhirl in Outram’s swirling style.’
—Quill & Quire
‘Richard Outram is one of the finest poets in the English language.’
About the Author
Outram was born in Canada in 1930. He was a graduate of the University of Toronto (English and Philosophy), and worked for many years at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as a stagehand crew leader. He wrote more than twenty books, four of these published by the Porcupine’s Quill (Man in Love , Hiram and Jenny , Mogul Recollected , and Dove Legend ). He won the City of Toronto Book Award in 1999 for his collectionBenedict Abroad (St Thomas Poetry Series). His poetry is the subject of a significant work of literary criticism, Through Darkling Air: The Poetry of Richard Outram, by Peter Sanger (Gaspereau Press, 2010).
Richard Outram died in 2005.
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