Transcript: James Reaney | Nov 09, 1971

A piano version of "O Christmas Tree" plays as a grainy black and white picture shows dozens of people posing outside a brick house.

JAMES REANEY says I'M INTERESTED IN IMAGES AND METAPHORS I THINK PROFESSIONALLY, AS A POET, YOU JUST HAVE TO BE INTERESTED IN THEM, AND I USED TO COLLECT AND LIST THEM IN GREAT BIG BOOKS OF THEM, AND IT'S EASY TO GET THE FIRST ONES. SO, I GUESS THAT ANY PLEASURE YOU GET OUT OF THE POEMS COMES FROM COLLECTING IMAGES IN THE SAME WAY. PUTTING THEM IN YOUR HEAD. HEAD IS PLAY BOX SORT OF THING.

James sits inside a room by a gothic window.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Canadian Writers. James Reaney."

James is in his forties, with short gray hair and a mustache. He's wearing glasses and a checkered shirt.

As he opens a chest and takes out books and other objects from it, he narrates I HAPPEN TO HAVE A PLAY BOX, AND IT'S FILLED WITH NOT ONLY TOYS AND SCHOOL RELICS, BUT ALSO DEED BOXES, ANCESTRAL COFFIN PLATES. IN SHORT, A WHOLE LIFE. WHEN YOU SORT THROUGH THE PLAY BOX, YOU EVENTUALLY SEE YOUR WHOLE LIFE AS WELL AS ALL OF LIFE. THE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE IN FRONT OF YOU NOW IS DESIGNED TO GIVE YOU THAT MOSAIC, ALL THINGS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME, GALAXY, HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY FEELING THAT RUMMAGING THROUGH A PLAY BOX CAN GIVE YOU...

Fast clips show letters, medals, pictures, drawings, stones and other random objects found inside the box.

James continues BUT UNDERNEATH THE JUXTAPOSITION OF COFFIN PLATE WITH BABY RATTLE WITH ROYAL FAMILY SCRAPBOOK WITH BIG LITTLE BOOK WITH PICTURES OF KING BILLY AND HITLER, THERE IS THE BACKBONE OF A PERSON GROWING UP, LEAVING HOME, GOING TO BIG CITIES, GETTING RATHER MIXED UP, AND THEN NOT COMING HOME AGAIN, BUT MAKING HOME AND IDENTITY COME TO HIM WHEREVER HE IS.

Piano music plays as a picture shows a brick house surrounded by greenery.

James continues YES, I WAS BORN IN 1926 ON THIS PLACE NEAR STRATFORD, ONTARIO. IT'S A FARM AND I WENT TO SCHOOL JUST ACROSS THE FIELDS THERE, TO A LITTLE PUBLIC SCHOOL, A COUNTRY SCHOOL, AND I WENT TO TOWN, STRATFORD HIGH SCHOOL, THEN I WENT TO TORONTO, GOT A JOB IN MANITOBA, THEN I CAME BACK TO TORONTO FOR THE DOCTORATE. THEN I CAME TO WESTERN, WHERE I'M IN THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT.

Pictures and clips show tall brick buildings, a Canadian flag fluttering in the wind and a plaque that reads "Western University."

James says I'M TEACHING A COURSE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO CALLED CANADIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE. I OFTEN GET STUDENTS SAYING TO ME, "PLEASE, SIR. HAVE WE ANY CULTURE AND WHAT IS IT LIKE AND IS IT DIFFERENT FROM USA AND BRITAIN AND ALL OF THAT?" AND, ONE OF THE THINGS YOU'D LIKE TO BE ABLE TO SAY IS, "YES. IT'S WHEN YOU EAT MAPLE SYRUP AND YOU WEAR MAPLE LEAVES AND YOU WEAR SNOW SHOES AND SKIS AND ALL THAT, YOU ARE A CANADIAN," AND, UH, IN OTHER WORDS YOU'D SOLVE THE PROBLEM BY PUTTING ON A NATIONAL COSTUME, THE WAY, IF YOU GO BACK TO THE UKRAINE OR POLAND IN THE 19TH CENTURY YOU DO. YOU KNOW, IN THE DAYS IN EUROPE, FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN YOU CROSSED FROM ONE FRONTIER TO ANOTHER, YOU WENT INTO QUITE A DIFFERENT PLACE. THIS WAS BEFORE THE RAILWAYS. WELL, IT ISN'T LIKE THAT, AND IT WOULD JUST BE ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE IF YOU WERE PEDDLING, UH, CANUCK STUFF ALL THE TIME. LIKE, YOU KNOW, TOURIST HARDWARE. UM. IT'S ALREADY THERE. YOU UNCOVER A CONSCIOUSNESS IN YOURSELF THAT IS, SORRY, THAT YOU'RE BORN WITH. JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE LIVED IN A PLACE OR YOU HAVE BEEN WITH PEOPLE WHO'VE LIVED IN IT FOR A WHILE. UM, AND IT USED TO BE IN CANADA WE HAD A GLORIOUS COUNTRY. WE JUST LEFT IT ALL INARTICULATE AND WE THOUGHT YOU WERE IN THE BRITISH EMPIRE, AND KEPT ROYAL FAMILY SCRAPBOOKS AND SO ON, WHICH IS PROBABLY VERY CANADIAN. WELL, THEN, NOW WE'RE IN THIS STATE IN WHICH DESPERATELY WE'RE TRYING TO GET OUT OF THE GLOBAL VILLAGE. WE DON'T WANT TO BE ALL NUMBERS IN SOME GHASTLY 1984 SET-UP. SO, THERE'S A LOT OF NATIONALISM AND SEPARATISM GOING AROUND, AND PART OF IT THEN WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT CANADIAN CULTURE IS A SEPARATIST THING JUST TO GET AWAY FROM THIS GREAT BIG 1984 THING THAT'S TAKING OVER THE WHOLE WORLD ON A NETWORK OF MCLUHAN TELEPHONE WIRES... WELL, NOT TELEPHONE WIRES. HEAVENS, THAT'S OLD-FASHIONED. UH, HOLOGRAPH WIRES OR WHATEVER THEY ARE, YOU KNOW, THOSE THINGS THAT FLASH THROUGH PEOPLE'S MINDS AND SPACE AND ALL THAT WITH IMAGES. SO, IT, UM, YOU JUST THEN TALK ABOUT PEOPLE WHO'VE WRITTEN AND TALKED IN THE COUNTRY, AND YOU GET A LOT OF SNEERS SAYING, "BUT THAT'S SECOND-RATE EMILY DICKENSON, AND THIS IS THIRD-RATE FENIMORE COOPER, AND THAT'S FIFTH-RATE SHAKESPEARE, AND THIS IS SIXTH-RATE EDGAR GUEST." AND OUR LENNY COHEN DOESN'T EVEN LIVE HERE ANYMORE. WELL, YOU JUST PLUNGE ON AND SLOWLY MAKE THE PLACE FEEL LIKE SOME SORT OF HOME. I THINK WE'RE FACING APPALLING PROBLEMS, UH, IN THAT ALL THESE PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN CITIES ANYMORE, AND THEY DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN THE WORLD THAT IT'S BECOMING. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO, BUT THAT'S IT. THERE IS SUCH A THING, AND IT'S NOT BLATANT, AND YOU CAN'T, UH, MAKE IT INTO A CONVENIENT LABEL. IT'S JUST A FEELING I HAVE AND I CAN TRANSFER IT TO OTHER PEOPLE BECAUSE IT'S THERE ALREADY. SOME PEOPLE I CAN'T AT ALL, BECAUSE THEY GO IN FOR A GLOBAL VILLAGE. THEY LOVE THIS IDEA OF BEING INTERNATIONAL. OKAY, BE INTERNATIONAL. THAT'S PROBABLY BEING CANADIAN, TOO.

As he digs in a garden on a sunny day, he says ONE OF THE THINGS I'VE BEEN INTERESTED IN-IN DOING IN MY GARDEN IS TO TRY AND GROW A SELECTION OF PLANTS THAT DON'T NEED ANY WATERING, SINCE I'M NOT HERE TO WATER IT, AND WHAT I'M REALLY AFTER IS SORT OF A CANADIAN DRY GARDEN. I'D LIKE TO MAKE IT UP OF WEEDS, ACTUALLY. I KNOW THIS COMES FROM TURKEY OR SOMETHING, BUT... AND THE SWEET WILLIAM COMES FROM ENGLAND, BUT I'VE BEEN EXPERIMENTING WITH THINGS LIKE MUMS. AND, UH, IT'S MORE OR LESS WHAT WRITERS IN CANADA TRY TO DO, TOO, IS TO GROW THINGS THAT DON'T NEED WATERING, YOU KNOW? THAT, IN OTHER WORDS, AREN'T LIKE SWEET WILLIAM, THAT COME FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY, BUT ARE OF THE OLD NATIVE STUFF. I DON'T KNOW. MAYBE THE MUM DOESN'T EVEN COME FROM... I THINK IT'S NATIVE CANADIAN. ANYWAY, THERE'S A PROBLEM IN A CANADIAN GARDEN THAT HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET. IF YOU LOOK AT THE CANADIAN GARDENS, THAT ARE ALL MOSTLY IMITATIONS OF ENGLISH ONES. AND THIS ONE IS IN PART BECAUSE IT'S BEEN SO NEGLECTED. THE MAIN THING HAS REALLY BEEN GETTING RID OF TWITCH GRASS, WHICH SEEMS TO INVADE THE WHOLE AREA. BUT, I BROUGHT A PICK-AXE TO GET RID OF THAT. WEEDS ARE FANTASTIC, UM. THAT IS THEY SEEM TO GROW BETTER IN A GARDEN THAN ANYWHERE ELSE, BECAUSE THEY GET THE COMPETITION FROM THE FLOWERS, AND WHAT YOU DO, YOU SEE THEM SNEAKING UP, PRETENDING TO BE FLOWERS QUITE OFTEN, AND ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU REALIZE THEY'RE A WEED, BUT THE ONLY THING THAT DOESN'T DO THAT IS A TWITCH GRASS, WHICH I'VE BEEN TALKING ABOUT EARLIER, WHICH IS DETERMINED TO TAKE OVER, WHICH I'M SLOWLY BEATING BACK. IT'S ALL GONE FROM THIS BED FOR EXAMPLE. TWITCH GRASS, LIKE, YOU KNOW, BAD POETRY.

Piano music plays as he continues to work on the garden.

Now he sits inside an office and says WE'VE BEEN THINKING, IN TEACHING THIS CANADIAN LITERATURE AND CULTURE COURSE, OF ANOTHER COURSE THAT WOULD JUST DO ONTARIO LITERATURE, AND THEN SOMEONE WHOSE PARENTS CAME FROM THE MARITIMES SAID, "WHY NOT THEN ALTERNATE IT WITH A MARITIMES COURSE?" AND THEN OF COURSE THERE'S QUEBEC WHICH IS A BIT TOUCHY, BECAUSE THE FRENCH DEPARTMENT REGARDS IT AS BEING IT'S AND WE HAVE TO GET... WE HAVE TO BE BILINGUAL. AND THEN THE OTHER REGION WE COULD SEE IS PRAIRIES AND THE PACIFIC, AND THAT'S, UM, A WAY THAT, UM, I THINK SOME CANADIAN WRITERS AND POETS AND ARTISTS ARE VERY FOND OF IT. I THINK NORY FRYE SAYS THAT THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF CANADIAN PAINTERS. THERE'S THE KIND THAT GOES RIGHT ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND EXPLORES ALL THE REGIONS, AND IS MORE OR LESS LIKE THE EARLY EXPLORERS AND LIKE THE PEOPLE THAT BUILT THE CPR, AND THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT ONE REGION AS AGAINST ANOTHER. IT'S THE WHOLE THING THEY SEE. THEN THERE ARE OTHER GENTLER, MORE PASTORAL PEOPLE LIKE DAVID MILNE, WHO JUST WANT TO SORT OF STAY IN ONE PLACE, AND THAT COULD BE THE FINGER LAKES IN NEW YORK STATE, WHICH IS MUCH LIKE THE LANDSCAPE THAT HE SETTLED IN EVENTUALLY IN NORTHERN ONTARIO, JUST WANT TO SETTLE THERE AND SORT OF EXPRESS THAT AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH IT. SO, THAT DAVID MILNE KIND OF THING, THE VERY GENTLE KIND OF, UM, "I'M JUST WARM AND COZY IN THIS REGION... " AND MIND YOU, WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT ONTARIO YOU THEN GET PEOPLE THAT SEPARATE IT INTO SOUTHWESTERN ONTARIO PEOPLE. THE BEST DAMN FIDDLER IN THE OTTAWA VALLEY, THAT FINNIGAN, JOAN FINNIGAN PLAY. AND PEOPLE WHO ARE FROM NORTHERN ONTARIO, WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEPARATE NORTHERN ONTARIO FROM THE REST OF THE PROVINCE, HATING TORONTO AND ALL THAT. THE THING IS, THOUGH, THAT THEY AT LEAST HAVE SOLVED ONE PROBLEM. THEY'RE WRITING ABOUT SOMETHING THEY KNOW IN THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND THEY LOVE IT AND ALL THAT, AND THEY SHOW THE LOVE. WELL, THEN, IF THEY GET GOING, BE REALLY GOOD ENOUGH LIKE THE NEW ENGLAND WRITERS, FOR EXAMPLE, THEN THEY GET TO SOMETHING DEEPER THAT REALLY SEEMS TO TUG AT THE WHOLE COUNTRY, AND THEN JUST BECOMES, YOU KNOW, YOU DON'T CARE WHETHER IT'S AMERICAN, OR ENGLISH, OR CANADIAN, OR OTTAWA VALLEY OR NORTHERN ONTARIO. IT JUST IS. UM, LIKE SOME OF THE GROUP OF SEVEN PAINTERS, FOR EXAMPLE. OR LIKE MILNE IN PARTICULAR, OR LIKE CARR. YOU DON'T CARE IN A WAY IN THE END WHETHER SHE IS WEST COAST OR NOT. SHE'S JUST A GOOD PAINTER, BUT SHE HAD TO BE NOURISHED BY EXPLORING SOMETHING VERY LOCAL, AND SHE HAD A BIG STRUGGLE WITH ASSIMILATING, YOU KNOW, ART STYLES THAT HAD BEEN STARTED IN PARIS AND GERMANY AND ENGLAND. WHEN SHE WAS IN CORNWALL, ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE ARE PAINTING HARBOURS. THIS IS IN 1911. SHE'S IN THE WOODS. SO, SHE'S REALLY GOING BACK HOME WHEN SHE'S IN CORNWALL. I CAN SEE VERY FUNNY THINGS ABOUT REGIONALISM. UM, A LOT OF ART IS FAR TOO REGIONAL. IT'S JUST FUSSY, SLOW-POKEY STUFF, PROVINCIAL AND ALL THE REST OF IT. BUT IF THEY'D ONLY GO FAR ENOUGH INTO PROVINCIALISM, THEN THEY COME OUT, UM, AT THE OTHER END. I DON'T CARE WHERE THEY COME OUT, BUT, YOU KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING TO A LOT MORE PEOPLE THAN YOU SUSPECT. UM, I THINK PEOPLE ARE MORE REGIONAL THAN THEY THINK, AND IT'S PART OF WHERE DO YOU LIVE? WHERE ARE YOU? A LOT OF PEOPLE DON'T KNOW. WELL, THEN THIS REGIONAL ART'S TRYING TO REAWAKEN THAT, AND IF IT DOES THEN YOU CAN HAVE A WORLD AGAIN, A NEW SOCIETY.

Piano music plays as a still shot shows an abstract painting.

James says THIS PAINTING'S CALLED THE SUN CLOWN. FOR A MOUTH HE HAS A SCENE ON EARTH, WHICH IS A LITTLE TREE AND A WORLD GOING BY, AND THEN HIS HAT IS MADE OF A RAINBOW. IT'S A STRAW HAT WITH A RAINBOW RIM. IF YOU LOOK AT THE PICTURE, IT'S ASPECTS OF LIGHT. HIS EYE FOR FEET. EYES FOR FEET. ONE SHUT, ONE OPEN. THE LEGS ARE SLICES OF SKY. ONE A DAWN, SUNSET SKY, THE OTHER A STARRY NIGHT, ONLY IT'S YELLOW WITH BLACK STARS. THE SUN CLOWN HAS FOR HANDS CANDLES AND FLOWERS, AND THEN HE'S GOT THE WEST PART OF THE HOUSE FOR HIS CHEST. THE POND, OR THE CLAY HOLE, IS RIGHT DOWN IN THE BELLY REGION. YOU CAN SEE THE SUN GLITTERING ACROSS IT AND THE STUMPS IN IT AND AN ELM TREE BY IT. UM, THERE'S THE, UM, SPIES BRINGING THE GRAPES BACK FROM THE PROMISED LAND TO JOSHUA AS A STAINED GLASS WINDOW ON ONE OF HIS ARMS, AND ON HIS LEFT ARM YOU GET A KITCHEN DOOR, SUNLIGHT COMING THROUGH KNOT HOLES ACROSS A DUSTY SORT OF KITCHEN FLOOR.

James cuts the grass in a large garden using a scythe.

(BIRDS CHIRPING) (CAWING)

As fast clips show trees bearing fruit, a rural home and a lakeside, James says ONCE THERE WAS A FARM DIVIDED IN HALF, HALF OF IT SURLY, BRICK MAKER OWNED. INTO THIS FROM THE WEST JUTTED AN ORCHARD OF 50 YOUNG TREES. CAPTAIN GRAPE ARBOUR, MAJOR MULBERRY. ANGEL GREENING TREES IN WHITEWASHED TRUNKS. ROOTS AND PERCHES FOUGHT CLAYHOLE AND SWAMP. THE LAWNS WON, THE GRAVEL PIT'S GONE. NOW THE FARM IS ONE. I FIGURED THAT THIS IS WHAT SAVED THE FARMS. THE ORCHARD. AS A MATTER OF FACT IT'S SORT OF THIS JUTTING INTO, UM, UNREALITY IS AN ORCHARD IN EVERYONE. POETRY'S CONNECTED WITH ORCHARDS AND UNIFYING TWO STATES OF BEING, YOU KNOW? THE POEM'S ABOUT THAT. THE FARM POEM, THE PICTURE POEM. PEOPLE OFTEN ASK ME HOW CAN YOU TEACH ART? HOW CAN YOU TEACH CREATIVE WRITING? HOW CAN YOU TEACH POETRY? DOESN'T IT SPOIL IT AND SO ON. I HAD A BOY IN CLASS JUST TWO DAYS AGO SAY THAT, UH, LITERARY ARTICLES URINATED ALL OVER POEMS AND HE WANTED JUST THE BARE POEM ITSELF, AND, UM, YOU SORT OF FELT THAT YOU SHOULD JUST CRAWL AWAY AND LET THE POEM TEACH ITSELF. UM, YOU HAVE TO BE SORT OF CUT AND DRY ABOUT IT BECAUSE YOU'RE IN A COMMUNITY, AND YOU HAVE TO COMPROMISE SO THAT YOU MORE OR LESS SET DOWN SOME GUIDE RULES AND MAPS OF THINGS AND YOU'RE GOING TO GET HOWLS BY PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT'S TOO CUT AND DRY, AND THAT'S, YOU KNOW... WELL, IN TEACHING CREATIVE WRITING, FOR EXAMPLE, THERE ARE METHODS THAT I WORKED OUT WHICH IF YOU FOLLOW THEM YOU DO BECOME A BETTER WRITER. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU BECOME A GENIUS OR NOT, BUT I WORKED ON THAT FOR ABOUT 10 YEARS. SO, IT CAN BE DONE. IT'S A RELATIONSHIP YOU SET UP WITH PEOPLE OF LOVE AND TRUST AND WORK, AND YOU MEET ALL THE OLD ENEMIES OF YOURSELF BEING LAZY AND THEY'RE LAZY, AND THEY'RE TOO ORIGINAL, AND YOU'RE TOO ORIGINAL, AND THEY'RE NOT ORIGINAL ENOUGH, ETCETERA, ETCETERA. BUT YOU JUST KEEP BOWLING AWAY AND THEY'RE, UM... WELL, FOR EXAMPLE, I PLAYED MY MODERN LITERATURE CLASS THIS MORNING SOME DELBIS SOUND POEMS AND I PLAYED THEM THE BEATLES' "REVOLUTION 9" TWO AND A HALF TIMES, AND ASKED THEM TO WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT IT, AND YOU FELT THAT, UM, THE OLD STEREO GRAMOPHONE ACTUALLY WORKED WITH THOSE PEOPLE. THE POOR THINGS. THEIR EARS WERE REALLY BATTERED BY THE TIME THEY GOT OUT OF THERE, BUT THEY WERE WRITING THINGS DOWN MADLY AND YOU'D BROKEN OPEN SOMETHING.

Piano sounds. Fast clips show rural settings and a dead tree.

James says YOU MIGHT THINK CANADIAN POETRY IS FILLED WITH A FEW DEAD ELMS. I HAVEN'T HAD MUCH OF A CHANCE TO EVEN HAVE ELM TREES YET. DEAD ELMS IN CANADIAN POETRY. MARGARET ADDISON HAS A POEM ABOUT TORONTO IN WHICH YOU DO GET A CHARRED DEAD ELM. SO, THEY CAN BE SUBJECTS FOR POETRY. THEY MAKE JOLLY GOOD ONES. I DON'T KNOW. I THINK THE LANDSCAPES FILLED WITH THEM RIGHT NOW. REALLY WHAT IT SHOWS YOU IS THE INFLUENCE OF EUROPE ON THIS CONTINENT, 'CAUSE I THINK THE DARN THING CAME FROM EUROPE. IT'S PART OF THIS GLOBAL VILLAGE DEAL IN WHICH INSECTS ARE SUDDENLY INTRODUCED TO A PLACE WHERE THEY NEVER WERE BEFORE AND THEY HAVE A DISASTROUS EFFECT. SO, THERE'S ALL SORTS OF, YOU KNOW, THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH THAT.

Piano sounds. Still shots show dead elms.

James says WHEN YOU WALK, UM, ACROSS A FIELD AND FIND AN ARROWHEAD, ONE THING THAT OCCURS TO YOU IS THAT, "I WANT TO KNOW WHERE THIS CAME FROM." AND YOU FIND OUT A RATHER EMBARRASSING THING THAT IT COMES FROM A CULTURE AND A WORLD AND A SOCIETY THAT YOUR ANCESTORS SUCCESSFULLY WRECKED. WELL, THEN, YOU KNOW, YOU SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE... THIS IS IN TWO LITTLE SAVAGES BY ERNEST THOMPSON SETON. YOU SPEND THE REST OF YOUR LIFE TRYING TO FIND OUT, WELL, WHAT WAS IT LIKE, YOU KNOW, AND COULD IT BE REVIVED? AND IS ANY OF IT STILL GOING ON AND SO ON. SO, YOU MEET AND TALK TO INDIAN PEOPLE. NORVAL MORRISEAU, WHO I'VE MET, AND ADMIRE VERY MUCH, AND EMILY GENERAL WHO DOES THE PLAYS DOWN AT BRANTFORD EVERY SUMMER, OR USED TO, AND YOU FIND THAT THERE'S A GREAT DEAL THERE THAT REALLY TEACHES YOU SOMETHING ABOUT REACTIONS TO TREES AND GRASS AND SKY AND ALL THAT. UM. THERE'S A RELATIONSHIP, AND I FEEL IT. WELL, I HAVE A FRIEND, FOR EXAMPLE, WHO, UM, HAS THAT ESKIMO DEITY SEDNA, SHE'S A MERMAID, IN SORT OF A BROACH FORM. THAT MEANS A LOT TO HER. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEIR POINT OF VIEW ABOUT THAT IS. THEY MAY VERY WELL SEE US AS STEALING SOMETHING FROM THEM, WHICH WE HAVE IN A WAY, BUT THE SAME THING MUST HAPPEN IN EUROPE WHEN YOU FIND THINGS THERE IN THE GROUND THAT BELONG TO A WORLD THAT'S VANISHED. FOR EXAMPLE, SOMEONE IN DENMARK DIGS UP A CELTIC CAULDRON. WELL, THERE ARE NO MORE CELTS IN DENMARK. THEY WERE CHASED OUT OR LEFT YEARS AGO. SO, IT'S THAT SORT OF THING. IT GIVES YOU A PAST THAT YOU DON'T DESERVE TO HAVE BUT IT IS THERE.

As clips show twisted metals belonging to an abandoned car, James says I DON'T KNOW HOW THIS CAR GOT HERE, BUT I THINK IT WAS DRAGGED HERE BY SOMEBODY WHO WANTED TO START A USED CAR LOT ON THE FARM AND WAS HAPPILY PREVENTED FROM DOING SO. EXCEPT THAT THIS STILL REMAINS. I'M GETTING TO RATHER LOVE IT, BUT AT FIRST I HATED IT. IT'S QUITE DIFFERENT FROM THE CAR THAT I DREW WITH FLOWERS FOR WHEELS.

A drawing appears of an old-fashioned car with flowers instead of wheels.

James says IT'S A DIFFERENT MAKE OF CAR. I THINK IT'S MORE MODERN, ISN'T IT? LIKE, THE THING IN THE DRAWING IS AN ESSEX, AND THIS IS A... I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS. MONSTER. (LAUGHING) AND, WELL, UM, I SUPPOSE IN A WAY IT EVENTUALLY MELTS INTO THE LANDSCAPE. IT'S LIKE THE DEAD ELMS. YOU EVENTUALLY GET USED TO IT. BUT I DON'T THINK I CAN STAND ANY MORE THAN ONE DISEASED CAR. I FILLED THE HOLE. WHERE WE'RE STANDING RIGHT NOW WILL PROBABLY BE ENGULFED BY CARS IN ABOUT 200 YEARS. I HOPE IN A WAY CARS ARE EVENTUALLY DISPENSED WITH. UM, THEY SEEM, YOU KNOW, ARTIFICIAL. THERE ARE A LOT OF SPIDERS ON THIS CAR THIS MORNING. IT'S, UH, IT'S SORT OF A DEATH CAR, I GUESS. WITH ALL THE GRASS AROUND IT, THE GRASS WILL GROW OVER IT IN TIME, AND YOU GET THINGS LIKE SPIDERS LIVING IN IT AND YOU GET A BIRD NEST IN HERE LAST YEAR. THE POOR THING DOESN'T... DOESN'T KNOW WHAT'S ON TOP OF IT, OBVIOUSLY. READY TO FALL DOWN, BUT, UH... THE WHOLE WAY OF LIFE THIS PLACE REPRESENTS... GOOD GOD, THERE ARE TWO WILD DUCKS. UH, REPRESENTS IS DYING OF COURSE. I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO COME AND TAKE ITS PLACE. PROBABLY HYDROPONICS. WE HAVE EVERYTHING GROWN ON PANS IN LABS, YOU KNOW? BUT, IN WHICH CASE I DON'T KNOW HOW A YOUNG PEOPLE WOULD GET THEIR START ON HYDROPONICS IN A LAB. UH. IN FACT, PEOPLE PROBABLY SURROUNDED BY THIS TV SCREEN IN LARGE. MY STUDENTS HAVE HORRIBLE THEORIES ABOUT THAT. YOU KNOW, PEOPLE BEING TIED TO DENTIST CHAIRS AND BEING FED THE MEDIA AND SO ON.

(LAUGHING)

An abstract painting appears. It resembles a humanoid form made up of different textures, with a detached, upside down boot underneath.

James says THIS PAINTING'S CALLED THE RAIN CLOWN, AND IT'S VARIOUS ASPECTS OF RAIN TO MAKE A HUMAN FIGURE. SO, WHAT YOU GET, A RUBBER BOOT FOR ITS LEFT LEG AND A LIGHTNING ROD FOR ITS RIGHT LEG, AND A RAIN BARREL FOR ITS THIGH AND A ROOF THAT'S WET WITH RAIN, AND MOSS FOR ITS OTHER THIGH. AND IT'S ARMS ARE EAVES TROUGHS, AND THEN ITS FACE IS A WINDOW WITH LEAVES THAT ARE STUCK AGAINST THE WINDOW FOR EYES, AND THE MOUTH IS A BRANCH, AND THEN THE HOUSE, FROM THE BACK, UM, IS ITS CHEST. AND IT'S ALL SORT OF ASPECTS OF RAIN AND STORM AND SO YOU SEE LIGHTNING. THERE HAVE BEEN VARIOUS REACTIONS TOWARDS TRYING TO GET MORE CANADIAN PEOPLE ON THE STAFF OF THE ENGLISH DEPARTMENT. UM, AND THERE ARE GOOD ARGUMENTS THAT YOU SHOULD GET THE BEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, AND THEY WILL TURN OUT TO BE FROM THE STATES AND BRITAIN NO DOUBT, UM. I THINK IT'S A GOOD THING, THOUGH, TO TRY AND GET THE FEELING OF A NATIONAL IDENTITY ACROSS BY SIMPLY HAVING SOME CANADIANS AROUND IN PARTICULAR THESE CULTURAL JOBS. WHETHER THEY'RE THE BEST PEOPLE OR NOT, HOW ARE THEY EVER GOING TO GET TO BE BETTER UNLESS THEY'RE GIVEN A CHANCE TO TRY? AND, UM, THEN ALL THE OTHER THINGS THAT ROBIN MATHEWS AND MR. STEELE HAVE BROUGHT UP CAN BE USED AS ARGUMENTS, TOO. UM, I THINK ROBIN MATHEWS SAID A TERRIFIC THING A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO. "PEOPLE ALWAYS SAY TO ME, 'WHY CAN'T YOU JUST TEACH THE UNIVERSAL THINGS? WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS SO INTERESTED IN, YOU KNOW, CANADIAN THINGS AND CANUCK THINGS AND SO ON?' WELL, THAT ALWAYS MEANS," HE SAYS, "NEVER ANYTHING CANADIAN AT ALL." WHY DOES IT ALWAYS MEAN THAT? AND YET, WHEN YOU'RE IN ENGLAND OR THE STATES OR EVEN ALBANIA, THERE'LL BE A FEW ALBANIAN THINGS LEAK INTO THE UNIVERSAL COURSES. SO, I'VE BEEN... THERE'S A LOT OF BAD TASTE IN IT AND A LOT OF BAD BLOOD AND VULGARITY, AND WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS. CANADIANS ARE... WERE THESE TYPES THAT THEY WERE SORT OF GENTLE, MELLOW, DETACHED THINGS THAT COULDN'T CARE LESS IF THEY WERE TAUGHT BY A BUNCH OF BRITISHERS OR 52 PEOPLE FROM HUNGARY OR SOMETHING, BUT JUST LATELY THEY GOT REALLY SAVAGE AND WILD AND REALLY WANT TO HEAR THE HOMETOWN PRODUCT, AND WHY NOT? BUT THERE ARE ALL SORTS OF PROBLEMS THERE. ONE OF THE THINGS IS THAT WHEN AMERICANS COME UP THERE, THEY'RE QUITE UNCONSCIOUSLY CONSERVATIVE. RADICAL AS THEY MAY BE, THEY SPREAD AN AURA OF TECHNOLOGY, AND IT'S JUST THEIR WHOLE MEDIA THING, THERE'S A RAMP-UP AND VISIBLE KIND OF HAZE AROUND THEM THAT, UM, IS SPREADING SOMETHING THEY ARE VERY MUCH AGAINST. WELL, THAT WILL BE MET WITH GNASHING OF TEETH BY PEOPLE, BUT I'VE SEEN IT HAPPEN. I DON'T WANT TO SAY THAT IT'S SOME SORT OF BLIGHT OR ANYTHING, BUT, UH, SO THAT'S THE PROBLEM, AND THAT'S THE WAY I FEEL.

Piano sounds. A painting appears of a wide landscape with streets, farms and trees.

James says THIS IS A PAINTING DONE FROM MEMORY OF THE BACK INTO THE FARM. THE ELM TREES ARE SO ALIVE. YOU'RE SEEING GARBAGE BURNING IN THE INCINERATION OIL DRUM. YOU'RE SEEING TWO FIELDS OF GRAIN. ONE WHEAT AND ONE OATS, I THINK. AND YOU'RE SEEING WHAT YOU SEE WHEN YOU LOOK DOWN THE BACK LANE OF THE BACK FARM EXCEPT THAT IT'S DRAWN FROM MEMORY, AND THE CLOUDS AND THE TREES AND EVERYTHING ARE SORT OF, UM... WELL, IT'S THE FIRST TIME I EVER REALLY WAS ABLE TO DO CLOUDS LIKE THAT. I DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW I DID IT.

Now James sits surrounded by unkempt grass inside the ruins of a stone building.

He opens a book and reads ROCKING CHAIRS. IN 1910, I WENT DOWN TO APPLY FOR ENTRY INTO THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO. WITH MY ONTARIO UPPER SCHOOL THEY ALLOWED ME TO ENTER THE THIRD YEAR OF THEIR COURSE THERE. I HAD BEEN EDUCATED BY THE NUNS AT A CONVENT IN OSHAWA. ANGLICAN NUNS, OF COURSE. IN 1913, WE TOURED THE CONTINENT. I REMEMBER SEEING HENRY JAMES' HOUSE AT RHYE. ALTHOUGH, AT THAT TIME I DON'T BELIEVE HE WAS IN IT. I CAN REMEMBER WHEN THERE WAS A BOY IN OUR VILLAGE WHO HAD THE PEEPING TOM DISEASE. USED TO RUN AROUND LOOKING IN PEOPLE'S WINDOWS. THEY FINALLY SENT HIM AWAY. PERCY SMITH HAD TB OF THE SKIN. THE ONLY TREATMENT HE COULD TAKE WAS TO STRIP AND LIE IN THE SUN. IT'S 500 YELLER BOYS IN THE CELLAR SOMEWHERE, CHILD. IF I COULD ONLY REMEMBER UNDER WHICH ONE OF THEM 500 FLAGSTONES THEY ARE. I CAN REMEMBER WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOVE COLLEGE STREET. IT WAS ALL BELOW COLLEGE STREET THEN. MY GRANDFATHER ATTAINED A GREAT AGE. HE WAS 109 YEARS OLD WHEN I REMEMBER I WAS A SMALL BOY OF SEVEN. I WOULD GET UP AT NIGHT, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, TO LIGHT HIS PIPE FOR HIM.

He puts on a beret and walks away. He walks up a wooden staircase, takes off his beret and coat and stands next to an old stroller.

He says I'VE JUST COME 13 STAIRS UP TO THIS ROOM WHICH IS WHERE THE PLAY BOX IS. IT'S A, UM, ROOM OVER THE BACK KITCHEN, AND IT'S GOT ALL SORTS OF THINGS IN IT. IT'S GOT THE BABY BUGGY FOR EXAMPLE. UM, THIS IS PRECISELY THE ONE THAT I WAS CARRIED ABUT IN. THAT IS, I WAS CARRIED ABOUT IN IT, BUT IT'S MY COUSIN MARY'S, THEN IT WAS MINE, THEN IT WAS HER SISTER'S, THEN IT WAS MY SISTER AND BROTHER'S, AND IT SORT OF STAYED IN THE FAMILY EVER SINCE, AND THERE IT IS. AND THEN OVER HERE WE'VE GOT, UM...

He walks over to a piano and says WE'VE GOT A NEW YORK SQUARE PIANO. UM, WHICH IS CLOSED UP. IT'S TUNELESS. VERY DIFFICULT TO TUNE, AND IT'S GOT LEGS LIKE AN ELEPHANT AND I DON'T KNOW HOW MY BROTHER OR MY STEP-FATHER GOT IT UP HERE. IT'S A GARGANTUAN EFFORT. ON TOP OF IT THERE ARE ALL SORTS OF THINGS OF POSSIBLE INTEREST.

As he lifts a ceramic lid he says THIS IS PART OF AN OLD TOILET SET THAT MY STEP-GRANDMOTHER BROUGHT TO THE HOUSE. THIS IS THE LID OF CHAMBER POT. AND MY MOTHER'S GOT ALL SORTS OF LITTLE NOTES HERE. UM, THEN, TYPEWRITER.

He hits a few keys on a typewriter and says MY MOTHER'S TYPEWRITER. FIRST TYPEWRITER IN THE HOUSE. STRAIGHT PENS BEFORE THAT. AND THEN HERE'S A WILD BIRD'S NEST.

He picks up a small nest and says I THINK THIS IS AN ORIOLE'S NEST. I THINK. THERE'S ALWAYS ONE IN THE ORCHARD SOMEWHERE. THE OTHER ONE DISAPPEARED. AND THAT'S, I DON'T KNOW, SONG SPARROW?

He picks up a bottle containing a long feather and says THEN, PHEASANT'S FEATHER IN A GLASS BOTTLE THAT I THINK WAS GOTTEN AT THE SECOND-HAND STORE IN STRATFORD. THAT IS NOT A LYRE. IT'S THE PEDAL STRUCTURE FOR THE GRAND PIANO, WHICH WAS BOUGHT BECAUSE I WANTED TO DO THE ERLKING DUO PIANO. AND THEN HERE'S A LAMP WITH A VERY INTERESTING SHADE. REPORT FOR 1925 SANITARY INSPECTION OF PUBLIC SCHOOL SS NUMBER ONE. GROUND, SIZE, SUITABILITY, DRAINAGE, CHARACTER OF SOIL, ONE ACRE. YES, GOOD. CLA... CLAY LOAM. WATER SUPPLY. SOURCE, PROTECTION, WELL-TOP. WELL, CEMENT, CLOSETS, PIPE, ODOR, CLEANLINESS, CUPBOARDS, PROTECTION FROM FLIES. A1 ALL THE WAY. INTERIOR ROOMS, WASH PLACES. HAS TALK ON SANITATION BEEN GIVEN TO PUPILS? YES.

A piano plays as all the drawings and paintings seen before appear in quick succession.

End credits roll.

Education Supervisor, David Hemblen. Editor, Annette Tilden. Director of Photography, M.J. Samuels C.S.C. Producer, Tony Snowsill. Copyright The Ontario Educational Communications Authority 1971.

Watch: James Reaney