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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 11.08.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Canada: Dead Poem Society

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has unveiled the next stage in his government's ongoing transformation of the Canadian political and social landscape, promising new and comprehensive legislation to get tough on rhyme.

"When the people of Canada elected the Conservative government in May, they sent a clear message that they want to be able to walk the streets of their neighbourhoods without fear of senseless sonnets and random acts of assonance," said the prime minister, who made the announcement perched atop a steamroller for no other reason than because he could.

The Harper steamroller was emblazoned with the government's latest brand, "A Bootprint for Canada: Because Canada Deserves a Good Boot."

The "tough-on-rhyme" agenda was revealed in front of the headquarters of Blurgle, Vletch and Patch, a Toronto publishing house that specializes in printing verse so dense and confounding that it has been linked to seizures among English Lit undergraduates.

In 2009, BVP published Esther Fuulsgult's "Bring Me Pomegranate Girdles," a 72-page poem in which the last word in each line rhymed with "troubadour." The poem was distributed for free as a way of bringing poetry to the poor.

However, the poem proved to be too obscure. In fact, it was so incomprehensible that some readers reacted violently, including one man who took a sledgehammer and smashed it through the floor. One newspaper columnist said it caused him to "spew galore." Eventually, the controversy subsided and BVP sighed, "Phew! No more!"

"The federal government cannot sit idly by as ordinary Canadians become confused and upset by complex, complicated ideas they cannot possibly understand," said Prime Minister Harper. "That's why you won't hear me talking about climate change either."

No journalists were at the BVP site itself because journalists sometimes ask difficult questions (unless they work for Sun Media). Instead, the announcement was fed live via the government's own patented HarperVision(tm), whose characteristics include a narrow focus, an absence of shades of grey, and a distinct American influence.

Without the opportunity to question the prime minister, it remains unclear whether his decision to get tough on rhyme has anything to do with the spate of recent Harper-themed limericks, such as:

    The PM kowtows to his voter base

    All sense of compassion he'll so erase

    The left's kind of freaking

    'Cause when he's done tweaking

    We probably won't even know the place

New legislation will put an end to any rhyming that is hurtful, satirical, not very good, and just plain dumb. The limerick cited above, for example, would meet all four criteria.

"Canadians will continue to have the right to rhyme in their own homes," said the PM. "But non-musical public rhyming, especially premeditated meditations and heinous haikus, will result in mandatory sentences -- and those sentences better be prose!"

Even as the PM was promising funding to construct "iambic penitentiaries" to deal with the anticipated influx of the verse society has to offer, critics were quick to point out that poetry is at an all-time low in Canada. Incidents of odes and epics are down fifteen percent compared to ten years ago. Most public rhymes tend to be light verse or doggerel -- so-called "gateway poems." And the last reported sestina was Herbert Vanderhootch's "Shall We Speak of Parcheesi?" in 1998.

Ironically, the new tough-on-rhyme policy comes as the Harper government is set to abolish the pun registry, which was designed, among other purposes, to curb abusive and not particularly funny rhymes.

"The registration of puns, especially long puns," said Prime Minister Harper, "made ordinary joke-loving Canadians feel like criminals. It's not law-abiding punsters we have to worry about. What we should be focusing on is when puns and other wordplay fall into the hands of artists and writers with no respect for a straightforward chuckle or comprehensible poetic meter that leave me wondering whether they're actually making fun of me."

The PM concluded by admitting that his tough-on-rhyme strategy won't be popular with all Canadians. "But someone has to take a stanza," he said.

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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