The Farm on the Hill He Calls Home

With the publication of John B. Lee’s memoir of growing up on a farm in southwestern Ontario, Black Moss has launched its first title in its Settlements series, This is a series of books where Canadian artists reflect on the land, the neighbourhood and the “place” in their lives; thereby telling the story of this country. In this one, John B. Lee tells us right from the beginning who he is and where he is situated in the 21st century: “I am a poet, not a farmer, though I was born a farmer’s son. I spent the first nineteen years of my life on the very land settled by my great-great grandfather and namesake, John Lee.” He goes on to say that whenever he visits the farm where he was born and raised, he is ”painfully aware that important things are slowly coming to a close.” Lee wrote this book just before his father died in early spring. He wrote, “My father has died and my mother and uncle are growing old and slowing down. I need only regard the fading glory of the prize plaques in the sheep pen, and the black paint shaling from the failing barns with their sag- ging white-washed stone foundations to know I am right. And when I see the crisis coming concerning what to do with the land, I realize that I have betrayed my parentage by leaving. However, I have always felt something of a foundling in me. I was never qualified to stay despite my consanguinary obligations. My roots are deep in the land of my father and the land is deep in me. So, what to do? I am no tiller, nor have I ever been. I was born to books. “My earth is made from paper. My plough turns a furrow of words.” While the book may be about the farm, it crosses over boundaries and can’t help but touch down on the notion that before our eyes, the things that we hold true are changing.

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