Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
Veiled Countries/Lives represents the sum total of the published poetic works of Marie-Claire Blais, winner of two Governor General awards and the Prix de l’Académie Française. This volume is the first English edition of these poems, which were first published in 1964, in French, and remained out of print until 1983. Blais has written 18 novels and plays since these poems were written, yet they exhibit her extraordinary talent in the creation of mood, imagery, and depth of feeling.
Blais is a master who weaves a magic vitality around the places and people of her native Quebec. She brings to life the constant struggle between reality, religion, nature, and almighty fate. She combines a sense of romance, love, and hope with hate, suffering, and despair. Her concern is with things as they are as well as things as they might be. Her female characters are obedient slaves to their men but they survive and continue to nurture. Nature is harsh and powerful but has qualities of magic and limitless beauty as well as evil. Fate is omnipotent and cannot be controlled even through devout, religious belief. War is inevitable and cruel yet unleashes nostalgia amid its savagery. Children are innocent and impatient for only the time required for them to grow to adulthood. As adults they fight the battle for survival.
Blais’s cadence is gently musical and always rings true. Michael Harris, himself a poet and editor as well as translator, carefully sustains all the nuances and subtleties of each poem. His accuracy in mood and style can easily be verified by the original poem, which is printed on the page opposite each translation. Blais’s poems are tender, simple, and often bittersweet. She appraises the great mysteries of life, love, nature, survival, and fate within the realm of human frailty and strength. Her works are a joy to savour.