Douglas Walbourne-Gough's poetic Crow Gulch reclaims the humanity of a 'forgotten' Corner Brook community
'It lit a fire under me as I needed to do something about this'
Douglas Walbourne-Gough is a poet and mixed/adopted member of the Mi'kmaq from Newfoundland. Crow Gulch is his first poetry collection. It takes us to a place and a time, and to a people pushed far away from the so-called mainstream and conveniently left out of history.
Crow Gulch was a community in Newfoundland that was built around a pulp and paper mill. Many of the residents were of Indigenous and non-Indigenous ancestry. Some of the residents included Walbourne-Gough's great-grandmother and her daughter.
But in the 1970s, Crow Gulch was abandoned. Walbourne-Gough spoke with Shelagh Rogers on location at the Writers at Woody Point in Newfoundland about capturing the history and legacy of the community through poetry with Crow Gulch.
Revisiting the past
"I was inspired by re-reading House of Hate by Percy Janes, which was originally published in 1970. It's a difficult book to read on a personal level, but it's also a very well-written book. For anybody who lives in, is from or wants to understand what it's like to be from Corner Brook, House of Hate gets to the root — or at least reflects on the roots — of a lot of the social, class, religious and racial divisions that existed.
I don't have an authoritative correction to offer, but I do have a kind of a counter-narrative which serves to re-humanize these human beings.
"In reading that book for the second time as an adult, there are a dozen or so very unkind depictions of Crow Gulch, mostly the women and the children. I took some personal issue with that because that's where my grandmother, aunts, uncles and my dad are from. It lit a fire under me as I needed to do something about this.
"I don't have an authoritative correction to offer, but I do have a kind of a counter-narrative, which serves to re-humanize these human beings."
"My grandfather didn't come from Crow Gulch. He was working as a woodworker with the mill and met my grandmother. They fell in love. I've always been taken by that story and I didn't know most of the details until I was an adult.
The more I thought about my family and tried to write this collection, I looked at photographs and I began to get dream visits from my grandfather.
"The more I thought about my family and tried to write this collection, I looked at photographs and I began to get dream visits from my grandfather. I've only had one such dream where my nana visited me, but she passed away when I was eight, so I can't even remember her voice.
"But I also have faith that if I keep going like this, she too will be able to come to me like that."
Douglas Walbourne-Gough's comments have been edited for length and clarity.