Poetry

This Is September

Lo! a ripe sheaf of many golden days
Gleaned by the year in autumn’s harvest ways,
     With here and there, blood-tinted as an ember,
Some crimson poppy of a late delight
Atoning in its splendour for the flight
     Of summer blooms and joys –
                    This is September.

L.M. Montgomery’s poem “September,” included in The Watchman and Other Poems (1916)
Cover of the original edition of ANNE OF THE ISLAND by L.M. Montgomery

“Harvest is ended and summer is gone,” Anne Shirley declares at the start of Anne of the Island (1915) – a statement that, as Rea Wilmshurst notes in her 1989 article “L.M. Montgomery’s Use of Quotations and Allusions in the ‘Anne’ Books,” is in fact a misquotation of Jeremiah 8:20 (“The harvest is past, the summer is ended”). For me as an academic, September also means the start of a new school year after a summer busy with research and writing projects – which this year included steady work on the next four volumes in The L.M. Montgomery Library. It doesn’t always make sense to work on four books at once, but in this case I became like the little boy in Anne of the Island (and originally in one of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” columns) who went to see a biograph: “I have to look for what’s coming next before I know what went last.”

This year, September also coincided with the next phase in my latest overhaul of this website. After I published my three-volume critical anthology, The L.M. Montgomery Reader, I added the items included in those volumes – including hundreds of reviews of Montgomery’s books appearing in periodicals from eight countries – to the bibliography of sources. Until recently, the vast majority of the items in that bibliography were listed multiple times: by author, by type (journal article and review, for instance), and again by periodical title. As I started adding to that bibliography items appearing in A Name for Herself and A World of Songs, I soon saw that this duplication was going to be unmanageable, given that some of these items (like Montgomery’s tract “What to Teach Your Son,” originally from her 1901 sketch “Half an Hour with Canadian Mothers“) were reprinted dozens of times.

In order to make this website more manageable, I decided to eliminate individual pages for periodicals except for those in which Montgomery published her hundreds of short stories, poems, and miscellaneous pieces between 1890 and 1942. As more and more newspapers have been digitized and made text searchable, I’ve noticed some of these items being reprinted again and again, sometimes anonymously. Her 1898 poem “Irrevocable,” for instance, appeared in The Congregationalist, a Boston periodical, before being reprinted in several newspapers between 1899 and 1901, including once, without Montgomery’s signature and under the title “Beyond Recall,” in the Brown County World of Hiawatha, Kansas. I haven’t yet found any more publications of that poem in the few years after that, but another burst of citations of this poem as “Beyond Recall” starts in 1905, usually unsigned, and sometimes attributed to Ewing Herbert, who owned the Brown County World. I’ve decided to list all these newspaper reprints but not create pages for each periodical given that Montgomery in all likelihood had no knowledge of how widely her work was recirculating, and given that more and more newspapers are being digitized all the time, there will always be more instances of reprinting to discover.

I’ve also created a page for the alternate signatures Montgomery used, particularly early in her career, including “Maud Cavendish,” “Joyce Cavendish,” “Cynthia,” and “J.C. Neville” – a form of authorship that I talk about in my afterword to A Name for Herself.

September is meaningful for another reason, too: the critically acclaimed television series Anne with an “E” is returning on CBC starting on Sunday night for a third season of ten episodes (it will appear on Netflix around the world, except Canada, on 3 January 2020). As I wrote in a blog post last year, the titles of all first-season episodes are quotations from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, whereas the titles of all second-season episodes are quotations from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. Brontë and Eliot were prominent models of nineteenth-century women’s authorship for Montgomery, so it was fitting that the episode titles for the first two seasons referred to their work. For the third season, the episode titles that I’ve seen so far all allude to another prominent book by a British woman – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which I find quite intriguing. And based on what I’ve read about the storylines for this season, I do look forward to seeing what lies ahead for Anne, her friends, and the community of Avonlea in this most recent incarnation of Montgomery’s story.

Montgomery Review 8: The Watchman and Other Poems

Cover art for The Watchman and Other Poems, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1916.

Today’s L.M. Montgomery book review: the Montreal News on The Watchman and Other Poems:

“Miss Montgomery has an extraordinary gift of imagery. Like so many of the big people of her craft she has a sensuous instinct for color, and she displays her skill in this direction in almost every line. The piece which gives the title to the volume is a powerful account of the Resurrection, told in verse that swings along like music; with a wealth of description that makes it like a poem painted in rich colors; and with a dignity and a restrained tenderness that scarcely fail in a single line.” —Montreal News