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landscape for the artists of the fifties was in the making. In the sixties,
during the Quiet Revolution, it begins to take shape, and among its icons
are the familiar ones of the river and the mountain.
Gatien Lapointe and Jean-Paul Riopelle:
The River and the Mountain
The 1960s represent a period of political, economic, and cultural re-
newal in Quebec, an era of unprecedented reconstruction in govern-
ment, public utilities, and the arts, beginning with the Quiet Revolution
and culminating with the awakening of an international spirit symbol-
ized by Expo 67 (see Bernier, Un siècle , 207). The resultant feeling of
national pride is reflected in a profusion of visual and verbal works of
art, marked, perhaps more than coincidentally, by a return to a more
representational approach that nonetheless bears the distinct traces of
the liberation brought to light by more non-figurative predecessors. 25
Of the poems of this decade, Mailhot and Nepveu find Gatien
Lapointe's Ode au Saint-Laurent , published in 1963, to be the most typi-
cal, not only in elevating language to a sovereign and foundational sta-
tus, but also in representing 'la poésie du pays,' which affirms and
renews national identity, as does the work of Gaston Miron and Paul
Chamberland (37).
The Ode au Saint-Laurent is a hymn of epic dimensions - 493 verses,
unrhymed but quite regular in rhythm, generally grouped into stanzas
of 8 verses, divided into 7 cantos of unequal length, spread over 26 pages
in the original edition (cited here). In fits and starts, abrupt halts fol-
lowed by repetitions and renewals, the poem moves inexorably for-
ward like the river towards the sea, tracing the simultaneous birth of
the man, the poet, the poem, and the country, all from the origins of the
river itself (named only in the title). Massive like the Saint Lawrence,
the poem has many themes or currents, only one of which, the river it-
self, will be tracked here. 26
After stating at the start his intention to describe the birth of both
man and poet, the narrator's repeated use of the first-person pronoun
clearly situates the narrative as one of identity:
Ma langue est d'Amérique
Je suis né de ce paysage
J'ai pris souffle dans le limon du fleuve
Je suis la terre et je suis la parole (65) 27
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