About the Author

Miriam Waddington

Miriam Waddington was a trailblazer. She was the first Jewish Canadian woman to publish poetry written in English and participated in the rise and flowering of modernist Canadian poetry. Her work was groundbreaking for its conversational tone, stylistic play and its focus on female lived experience.

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Apartment 7

Apartment 7

Essays New and Selected
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Street of Riches

When he built our home, my father took as model the only other house then standing on the brief length of Rue Deschambault — still unencumbered by any sidewalk, as virginal as a country path stretching through thickets of wild roses and, in April, resonant with the music of frogs. Maman was pleased with the street, with the quiet, with the good, pure air there, for the children, but she objected to the servile copying of our neighbor’s house, which was luckily not too close to ours. This neighbor, a Monsieur Guilbert, was a colleague of my father’s at the Ministry of Colonization and his political enemy to boot, for Papa had remained passionately faithful to Laurier’s memory, while Monsieur Guilbert, when the Conservative party came into power, had become a turncoat. Over this the two men quarreled momentously. My father would return home after one of these set-tos chewing on his little clay pipe. He would inform my mother: “I’m through. I’ll never set foot there again. The old jackass, with his Borden government!”

My mother concurred: “Certainly. You’d do far better to stay home than go looking for an argument wherever you stick your nose.”

Yet no more than my father could forgo his skirmishes with Monsieur Guilbert could she forgo her own with our neighbor’s wife.

This lady was from St. Hyacinth, in the Province of Quebec, and she made much of it. But above all she had a way of extolling her own children which, while lauding them, seemed to belittle Maman’s. “My Lucien is almost too conscientious,” she would say. “The Fathers tell me they have never seen a child work so hard.”

My mother would retort: “Only yesterday the Fathers told me again that my Gervais is so intelligent everything comes to him effortlessly; and apparently that’s not too good a thing, either.”

My mother was most skillful in parrying what she called Madame Guilbert’s “thrusts.” Despite all this — or perhaps because of it — our two families could scarcely get along without each other.

Often of an evening my mother would go out on the open porch in front of our big house and say to my sister Odette, “Supper is ready. Run over and tell your father; he’s still at the Guilberts’. Bring him back before any argument begins.”

Odette would sally forth across the field. When she reached the Guilberts’, there my father would be, his pipe clamped between his teeth, leaning against our neighbor’s gate and chatting peaceably with Monsieur Guilbert about rosebushes, apple trees, and asparagus. So long as the two men were on such subjects, there was no need for alarm; and here Monsieur Guilbert was willing enough to accept my father’s views, since he granted that my father knew more about gardening than he did. Then Odette would espy Gisèle’s face at one of the upstairs windows. Gisèle would call out, “Wait for me, Odette; I’m coming down. I want to show you my tatting.”

In those days they were both fanatically devoted to piano playing and to a sort of lacemaking that involved the use of a shuttle and was, if my memory serves me well, called tatting.

Then my mother would send my brother Gervais to see what on earth could be keeping my Father and Odette over there. At the field’s edge, Gervais would encounter his classmate Lucien Guilbert, and the latter would entice my brother behind an ancient barn to smoke a cigarette; needless to say, Madame Guilbert always maintained that it was Gervais who had induced Lucien to indulge this bad habit.

Out of patience, Maman would ship me off to corral them all. But I would chance to meet the Guilberts’ dog, and we would start playing in the tall grass; among us all, now at loggerheads, now so closely knit, I think that only I and the Guilbert dog were always of the same temper.

At last my mother would tear off her apron and come marching along the footpath to reprimand us. “My supper’s been ready for an hour now!”

Madame Guilbert would then appear on her own porch and graciously exclaim, “Dear, dear! Do stay here for supper, seeing as you’re all here anyway.”

For Madame Guilbert, when you yielded her her full rights to superiority and distinction, was a most amiable person. Still, it was difficult to avoid, throughout an entire evening, the subject of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, or to settle once and for all which boy had induced the other to smoke; and the consequence was that often enough we came home from these kindly visits quite out of humor with the Guilberts.
Such was our situation — getting along together happily enough, I avow — when the unknown quite fantastically entered our lives, and brought with it relationships more difficult, yet how vastly more interesting!

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Writing the Terrain

Writing the Terrain

Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets
contributions by Ian Adam; James M. Moir; Michael Henry; Erin Moure; Sid Marty; Ruth Roach Pierson; Bruce Hunter; Cyril Dabydeen; Miriam Waddington; Robert Stamp; Tim Lilburn; Stephen Scobie; Jon Whyte; Deborah Miller; John O. Barton; Colleen Thibadeau; Joan Crate; Ken Rivard; Greg Simison; Allan Serafino; Stacie Wolfer; Leonard Cohen; Miriam Mandel; Rosalee van Stelten; Yvonne Trainer; r. rickey; Barry McKinnon; Nancy Holmes; Gail Ghai; Vivian Hansen; Gerald Hill; Richard Hornsey; Sally Ito; Fiona Lam; Alice Major; Margaret Avison; Bonnie Bishop; Alexa DeWiel; Jim Green; James M. Thurgood; Anne Swannell; Aleksei Kazuk; Jason Dewinetz; Robert Boates; Joan Shillington; Anne Campbell; Sheri-D Wilson; Jan Boydol; Tom Wayman; Tim Bowling; Richard Woollatt; Carol Ann Sokoloff; Colin Morton; Anna Mioduchowska; Peter Stevens; Stephan Stephansson; Dennis Cooley; Rita Wong; Rajinderpal Pal; P. K. Page; Roberta Rees; Michael Cullen; John O. Thompson; Doug Beardsley; Christine Wiesenthal; D.C. Reid; Joseph Pivato; Tom Howe; Kim Maltman; Wilfred Watson; Lorne Daniel; Laurence Hutchman; Monty Reid; Ivan Sundal; Charles Noble; Walter Hildebrandt; Aritha van Herk; Erin Michie; David McFadden; Vanna Tessier; James Wreford Watson; Ryan Fitzpatrick; Phyllis Webb; Murdoch Burnett; Christopher Wiseman; Weyman Chan; Karen Solie; George Bowering; Tammy Armstrong; Robert Kroetsch; Eva Tihanyi; Gary Geddes; Leslie Greentree; Gordon Burles; E.D. Blodgett; Douglas Barbour; Cecelia Frey; William Latta; Pauline Johnson; Aislinn Hunter; Robert Hilles; Tom Henihan; Deborah Godin & Jan Zwicky
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