For my seventh book in The Canadian Book Challenge I remained in the north. When I saw this book I couldn’t resist getting a copy for myself. This was a book that helped to propel me back to my childhood, a trip I would take every time the opportunity arises. Robert W. Service’s collection of poetry Best Tales of the Yukon was everything I had hoped. The only part that was lacking were the more than amazing illustrations I grew up with when I either read or had read too the infamous The Cremation of Sam McGee by Ted Harrison.
Unlike the last book of poetry I read, coincidentally for this very challenge, Unsettled I loved Service’s work. His poetry is what many people think of when they think of poetry. It’s a little longer than some poems, but not at the length that would make me call it epic. After reading one you feel compelled to move on the next.
There is nothing negative I could say about this collection of Service’s work unless you want to include my lament for the absence of Harrison’s art work. It’s hard to removed those beautiful images from my memory when I hear The Cremation of Sam McGree, along with the images the first few lines from the poem are pulled to the fore of my thoughts:
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who mail for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
I can already see those haunting images of the northern lights. Even as I write these words I was compelled to go back and read The Cremation of Sam McGee in its entirety. If for nothing else Best Tales of the Yukon is worth reading because of The Cremation of Sam McGee.
I must admit that I haven’t read much of Service’s work so I’m ex-static that I found this collection. I think that’s because the only Canadian poets I can recall having a significant interaction with would be Margaret Atwood *shudder* and Al Purdy. Service is definitely heads over these two. The poems have me yearning for the gold rush up in the Yukon, and I’ve had no experiences with prospecting or mining for gold let alone being around for the Yukon Gold Rush.
It’s been great reading these books from Canada, the country I long for. It’s been a while since I’ve been in Canada and reading these tend to help relieve the homesickness that well in me from time to time. There are still another six books I need to read for this challenge that is quickly drawing to an end. I guess I should push on and get these books finished. This has been a wonderful challenge thus far and I’m excited about what the other provinces and the Northwest Territories have to offer. Back to the bookshelf for some more reading.