Gord Downie: A poet America needs to get to know

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Canadian Press

Last week, an iconic performer and poet passed away.

And about a year ago, one of BestSelling Reads’ founders, the multi-talented Kathleen Valentine passed away suddenly.

Kathleen was in charge of the Monday Musings for a long time, and she was known to publish the words of significant poets on this blog — like Bob Dylan, for example.

Gord Downie, the front man and the principal lyricist for the Canadian band, The Tragically Hip, passed away after a long battle with brain cancer. It was something every Canadian knew was coming, and yet something, in the words of our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, that we all wished would not happen and that still hurt deeply when it did.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the career of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip was that they never really broke through in the U.S. market, unlike many Canadian musicians like Céline Dion, Bryan Adams, Jonie Mitchell or Shania Twain. And yet, perhaps it’s Downie’s poetry that citizens of the U.S. need to hear.

In the spirit of Kathleen Valentine, then I’d like to present some words of Gord Downie that perhaps American (that is, citizens and denizens of the U.S.A. — after all, I’m and American, too, as are Mexican President Peña Nieto and Brazilian poet Braulio Tavares).

At The Hundredth Meridian

Me debunk an american myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the great plains begin
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains beginDriving down a corduroy road
Weeds standing shoulder high
Ferris wheel is rusting
Off in the distance

At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
Where the great plains begin

Left alone to get gigantic
Hard, huge and haunted
A generation so much dumber than it’s parents
Came crashing through the window

A raven strains along the line of the road
carrying muddy old skull
The wires whistle their approval
Off down the distance

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin

I remember, I remember Buffalo
And I remember Hengelo
It would seem to me
I remember every single fucking thing I know

If I die of vanity, promise me, promise me
If they bury me some place I don’t want to be
You’ll dig me up and transport me, unceremoniously
Away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease and the acts of enormity
And lower me slowly and sadly and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

At the hundredth meridian (hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (at the hundredth meridian)
At the hundredth meridian (baby, you’re going to miss me)
At the hundredth meridian (trust me)
Where the great plains begin.

Do you know some poets that Americans need to learn about? Leave a comment.
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