Poets’ Pathway: The Proposal

Poets’ Pathway: The Proposal

When Ottawa became the capital of Canada in 1867, the Fathers of Confederation wanted to make it a capital worthy of comparison to any capital city in the world. They understood that a true capital is more than bricks and mortar. They wanted a city to lead Canada in arts and sciences, culture and intellect. To that end, they encouraged worthy poets, writers, scientists and artists to move to Ottawa to create the “Florence of North America.”

The group that really helped create Canadian English poetry and literature was a group of Ottawa poets, The Confederation Poets, comprised of Archibald Lampman, Duncan Campbell Scott and William Wilfred Campbell. They jointly wrote a column in the Toronto Globe, in 1892-1893, entitled  “At the Mermaid Inn.” It has become renowned as the genesis of Canadian literary criticism, and the heart of Canadian literature.

As well, a group of French speaking poets and authors belonging to the Mouvement littéraire came to Ottawa from Quebec City when the civil service moved to Ottawa in 1870. This group included Alfred Garneau, Antoine Gerin-Lajoie, Achilles Frechette and others. They are considered some of the most important poets and writers in 19th Century French Canada.

Here is a synopsis of the literary culture of Ottawa in the 19th Century and some quotations from the Fathers of Confederation, and others, about Ottawa as a literary capital.

Ottawa is therefore the literary heart of Canada, yet there is no monument, museum or memorial to their achievements in Ottawa, nor anywhere else in Canada. We have no place to share the ideas and imagination of the creators of Canadian culture. The Poets’ Pathway Committee proposes the creation of a pathway to honour and commemorate Canadian poetry and literature, in the city and place that was the inspiration for some of Canada’s greatest words.

It was a sense of place that motivated the enduring literary achievement of the Confederation Poets and the Mouvement littéraire. The natural environment that inspired these artists should be preserved as a memorial to our Canadian literary heritage.

The Poets’ Pathway would be a continuous 30-km pathway, running from Britannia Bay along the valleys of the Pinecrest and Nepean Creeks, across the Rideau River through the Southern Corridor, including McCarthy Woods, then north along the Eastern Corridor, including Pleasant Park Woods, and finally along the Rideau River and Beechwood Avenue to Beechwood Cemetery. With the exception of the “urban” segment of Beechwood Avenue, this trajectory is strictly along either existing or planned recreational pathways.