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George Ryga Essay

784 words - 4 pages

Honouring George Ryga: Our Mission
George Ryga's most famous character is Rita Joe, and her place in our world is obvious and damning still. Among the real world examples that informed his writing of The Ecstasy of Rita Joe is the story of a young boy taken from his home in northern Ontario to a residential school. He was found during a helicopter search for truants and taken by helicopter to the school. From the air he saw the train tracks that could lead him back to his community. When he could, he followed those tracks and died, frozen, beside them.

Metaphors guide us, as artists, and if we're at work at two in the morning when there is milk to deliver at dawn, it's to tell a story to ...view middle of the document...

It exists in the call centres, in the kitchens, in the studios, the harvests, the factories. It's building a road somewhere, finding a new way into community. As George Ryga wrote:

An artist in our time can turn and flee from all this -- rush away to some patch of earth reasonably insulated from the drumbeats of ongoing history [ ... ] but that is not the only choice. There is another method of approaching this uncompromising dilemma. And that is to continue on into the desert [ ... ] to allow new language and metaphor to filter into oneself through osmosis of food, climate, pacing, humour, fear.

We will avoid art that flees. We will avoid art that describes but does not take a stand. We will celebrate prose, for instance, that contains what Steven Milhauser calls the "secret aggression" to contain the whole world. We will publish poems that, to paraphrase Seamus Heaney, are born from an impulse to answer, and, in that answer, to provoke a continuing response.

All art is response. It cannot exist outside the political no matter how hard it tries. If it describes a flower, it describes a flower as the artist sees it, depending on her bravery, her fear, her humility, her arrogance, but she describes it as it must be also. Its place in the world depends upon it. Art responds to the world with its own...

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