P.K. Page's "The First Part"

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Elbow River looking west from Weaselhead Flats, toward the old Sarcee Camp (Photo: City of Calgary website)

Elbow River looking west from Weaselhead Flats, toward the old Sarcee Camp (Photo: City of Calgary website)

The poet P.K. Page spent childhood summers along the banks of the Elbow River, a few miles southwest of the city centre. In the 1920s, her father served as an officer in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse. In the summer, the Pages would move from their Calgary home to Sarcee Camp, on the perimeter of the Tsuu T’ina Reserve, where her father participated in military exercises. Page’s time in this landscape, her biographer writes, provided some of the poet’s most vivid childhood memories. Decades later, when Page was living in Australia, she gave a talk about Canadian cities. When she spoke of Calgary, she recalled its “glass air” and its “limitless grassland wrapped in light as clear as cellophane.” In a late autobiographical poem, she reflects on the role this landscape at the edge of the city played in shaping her artistic sensibility.

 

Backdrop: the cordillera of the Rockies.

Infinity – slowly spinning in the air –

invisibly entered through the holes of gophers,

visibly, in a wigwam’s amethyst smoke.

 

Eternity implicit on the prairie.

One’s self the centre of a boundless dome

so balanced in its horizontal plane

 …

 It was a landscape in which things could grow

enormous.

 

 

P. K. Page, “The First Part,” The Hidden Room: Volume 1 (Porcupine’s Quill, 1997)