To the Editors of the Stouffville Free Press: How One Wrong Vowel Can Change the Meaning of a Sentence
In your kind and generous article about my work in your last issue, I found a serious and misleading typo.
In the second column, paragraph two, when Hannalore Volpe cites The Guardian piece that quoted me about Canada´s promise and post-nationalism, the copy says:
“…its connection to blood and soul…”
The line should read:
“…its connection to blood and soil…”
The error, I realized, was in The Guardian essay. Nevertheless, its repetition here concerned me.
That emphasis on “soil” is all-important in this context. I was referring to the Neo-Fascist declaration that a state should be built on “blood and soil.” And I was placing the Canadian cultural-political experiment in passionate opposition to this racist notion. It´s a nativist obsession which, tragically, is gaining currency again in North America and Europe. The notion of “blood and soil” is to me soulless–without compassion, a sense of justice and cosmopolitanism, lacking in generosity, warmth, welcome, kindness, and a respect for Otherness.
One wrong vowel in a word can make a damaging difference. The Guardian´s inaccurate use of the word “soil” creates the impression that I´m exalting Canada in an anti-spiritual way. This is not the case. A quick glance at any of my recent books–including the ones that Ms Volpe has so faithfully covered in your pages–would tell you how deeply concerned I am with the soul. Truly my work is about a wrestling with what means to be charged with the soul´s poetry.
B. W. Powe
Department of English
York University, Toronto