Herménégilde Chiasson


  1. Biography
  2. Why Should We Read and Study Chiasson?
  3. Literature & Analysis
    • “Blue”
    • “Red”
    • “Between The Season of Extravagant Love And The Season of Raspberries”
    • Analysis of “Blue,” “Red,” and “Between The Season of Extravagant Love And The Season of Raspberries”
    • “Readings”
    • Analysis of “Readings”
    • from Beatitudes
    • Analysis of Beatitudes
  4. Questions and Considerations for Reflection
  5. Strategies for Teachers
  6. Further Reading
  7. Copyright


An acclaimed artist in varied forms and expressions, Herménégilde Chiasson was born in Saint-Simon, NB in 1946. A poet, playwright, painter, filmmaker, professor, photographer, and former Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New Brunswick (20032009), Chiasson is the highest-profile figure of the pioneering Acadian Renaissance poets, his creative output and cultural leadership spanning almost half a century. His early verse collections published by Les Éditions d’AcadieMourir à Scoudouc (1974) and Rapport sur l’etat de mes illusions (1976) – put him at the forefront of the Acadian Renaissance, but with a literary style and voice different from his peers, Guy Arsenault and Raymond Guy LeBlanc. Chiasson’s early tone was a jazzed up form of anguish and pain, that expression influenced by an existential avant-garde that he encountered when doing a PhD on photography and aesthetics at the Sorbonne. The most intellectual and experimental of the Acadian writers, his vision has moved from form to form (poetry, prose, paint, image, film, stage) to find the best medium for its expression.

For a much more detailed biography of Chiasson, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.

Why Should We Read and Study Chiasson?

  • In Herménégilde Chiasson we encounter an artist not only committed to creative address but committed to exploring multiple forms of address. To this point in our literary survey, we have not seen anything close to his experiment or daring in New Brunswick, nor do we in the next two generations of English and French authors that follow. His integrity as an artist has meant that he is open to all manner of expression, whether or not he has mastered that form. This openness is extremely rare in literatures around the world, not only in New Brunswick and Canada. “Creativity” and “Acadie” are the only constants that one perceives in his work. His capacity to surprise and upset expectations, not to mention push the boundaries of generic convention (mixing prose and poetry, the formal and colloquial), is unsurpassed in New Brunswick literature.
  • We should also read Chiasson because of the critical acclaim he has received. While it may seem trite or obvious to consider reception as a basis for notice, the frequent recognition of excellence associated with his name should invite our attention. He is among the most highly regarded New Brunswick authors in both official languages, his list of awards almost unmatched. He has received the country’s highest literary award, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry (1999), as well as being twice recognized with the prestigious Prix France-Acadie (1986, 1992). He is also a Chevalier de l’Ordre français des Arts et Lettres and a member of the Ordre des francophones d’Amérique, both significant international honours.

Literature & Analysis


Acadie is no more. There’s no longer a black boat in
the sea with white sails gliding on the water, our sea,
our Atlantic, our desire to glide to the world’s end, but
we are at the world’s end. There’s no longer a blue
sailboat like the one in which my father spent half of
his life between the blue of the sky and the blue of the
sea. And I would stop writing if I didn’t know that the
one hope of seeing a new crew is the one already
taking form in the eyes of my father who is setting sail
in his own Acadie that is farther away than mine, an
Acadie that’s no longer a hell but a desire to take down
the axes from the barn walls and to say that’s enough,
we have reached the end of the world, we have to bury
it or be buried ourselves. And I have begun to wonder
if one day this crew will take to the sea with the sun
inside it, if one day this crew will take to the sea before
my mother who prays to blue madonnas for my white
sins and does not want to see red blood on white snow
nor a black flag in the blue sky, my mother with her
fingernails broken from too much digging in the earth
and who may have already learned to say PLEASE.


Acadie, my too beautiful desecrated love, you whom I
will never take into white sheets, the sheets that you
have torn to make white flags like the fields of snow
that you have sold like your old fence posts, your old
barns, your old legends, your old dreams, white as an
old wedding dress in an old cedar chest. Acadie, my
too beautiful desecrated love, who speaks on credit to
say things that one must pay in cash, who borrows
privileges while believing she is gaining rights. Acadie,
my too beautiful desecrated love, on stand-by on every
continent, on stand-by in every galaxy, divided by
church steeples that are stretched too thin, filled with
saints up to a heaven that is too far away. Rip off your
blue dress, put red stars on your breasts, sink yourself
into the sea, the red sea that is going to open as it did
for the flight from Egypt, the sea belongs to us, it is
true, the whole sea belongs to us because we cannot
sell it, because there is no one who could buy it.

“Between The Season of Extravagant Love And 
The Season of Raspberries”

You went away opening cracks in the April ice that
melted so fast, without noticing the spring as it
hastened to come that year with a moist March wind
sticking the leaves to their trees.

And you went away so fast that a part of me was exiled
within you; you went away by roads among water
puddles, mudholes, gaping wounds in the asphalt
bleeding dirty water over our white clothes.

And I asked myself whether I would end up crossing
the pale grass of burnt-over clearings and the fresh
water of thaws in the voyage I took without a return
ticket to see a garden of untroubled flowers.

There were cabbages growing nearby, and they gave
me a bouquet of salad. Dusk fell and cars plunged into
the darkness with all the racket of refugees reaching
the border.

I closed the garden door again. A bouquet of
Everlastings had been put on the table. I opened the
door of the house once again and outside the
raspberries had begun to ripen.

Analysis of  “Blue,” “Red,” and “Between The Season of Extravagant Love And The Season of Raspberries”

The three poems above come from Chiasson’s first collection, Mourir à Scoudouc (1974), translated as “to die in Scoudouc.” “Blue” and “Red” are reminiscent of the strong emotions (even the militancy and exasperations) of Guy Arsenault and Raymond Guy LeBlanc, his closest contemporaries, but they are pitched differently, Chiasson’s voice and beat that of a bluesy jazz. Revealing the humiliations and anguish of cultural alienation – “Acadie is no more” (“Blue”), reduced to a “too beautiful desecrated love” (“Red”) – each poem enumerates degrees of loss and pain while alternating between the emotions of rage and despair. Those emotions are tied to primary colours, blue the colour of sea, sky, and maternal protection, and red the colour of anger and revolt. The repetition of colours riffs on the emotions, just as a jazz ensemble repeats patterns that underlie a common theme. The common theme in these two poems takes the form of an implied question: what is to be done when a nation “reach[es] the end of the world” (“Blue”)? Do its citizens “take down / the axes from the barn walls and … say that’s enough, / …, we have to bury / it or be buried ourselves” (“Blue”) or do they pray for relief “to a heaven that is too far away” (“Red”), that prayer licensing passivity, deferring change, and guaranteeing subordination? Prayer for social justice, the poems imply, has resulted in Acadians being “on stand-by on every / continent, on stand-by in every galaxy” (“Red”), a clever way of saying that they continue to be the unwanted visitors who cannot easily leave. The consequence is that they have become a people divided against themselves “who may have already learned to say PLEASE” (“Blue”). Who, in other words, have adapted to conformity.

The choice is excruciating: the blood of Christ or the blood of man. But the achievement of the poems is that Chiasson never sets up the choice as an either/or. He is being suggestive, writing his pain into the instrument of language as a jazz player blows his pain into a tenor sax. The tone is plaintive, bringing to the surface of each poem not a didactic solution (neither calls for a bloody revolution) but, rather, the artist’s suffering. We are therefore not left with a battlefield plan but with the register of pain. This is what alienation feels like, says both poems. These are the emotions of loss, of seeing one’s parents bent and humiliated, of communities divided against their better interest. This, again, however, is the Acadie seen by the poets of the revolution.

Chiasson is equally skilled in foregrounding emotions in the poem “Between The Season of Extravagant Love And The Season of Raspberries.” Like the two poems above, this poem does not document ideas but the state of the speaker’s emotions. It should thus be read as a series of moods, those moods tied to striking seasonal images. If we pay attention to the seasonal images we will understand the poem’s moods and its meaning.

The poem opens, like many of Chiasson’s early poems, in loss. A lover or loved one has departed with the spring, an inversion of the normal cycle of renewal that governs northern narratives. The imagery is familiar to us: cracks in April ice, moist March winds, and “gaping wounds in the asphalt,” which New Brunswickers affectionately call potholes. The images and metaphors are local and suggestive of a mood of restless longing.

Does the speaker follow his lost love across the “burnt-over clearings and the fresh / water of thaws . . . without a return / ticket” or does he stay? The answer is given by suggestion. He stays, left only with the bitter salad (taste) of cabbage and the cacophonous sounds of a frenetic march that he is not part of. Yet flowers have been left for him, a “bouquet of / Everlastings,” the flower of death – the flower that was brought to funerals to symbolize immortality. When the speaker opens the door again, the raspberries have begun to ripen, which, as all New Brunswickers know, happens in mid to late July, depending on the weather. In other words, four months have passed. The speaker has lost all track of time, as have we, the readers, who followed him through his despair and disorientation.

None of this, of course, is said in the poem, but it is powerfully suggested, the imagery a sign system that leads us through the speaker’s journey of heartbreak and loss. Is that loss a breakup or a death? It is unclear, except that the imagery points to the latter. But that is beside the point. What is more important in the poem is Chiasson’s orchestration of a moodscape, a landscape of emotion. To read the poem is thus to be dropped into the bewilderment of loss.

And to read Chiasson with care and attention is to appreciate that we are in the presence of an artist whose work neither shows nor tells one-dimensionally but offers moments of emotional intensity that we enter at our own risk. His work, then, enables us to see and feel from the inside.


     I remember the day when I learned to read. I remember
it exactly. The silence of summer, the odours exhaled by
the fields, the flowers, the night, the sound of men talking
in my family’s general store, their arguments, their conversations,
their violent, pointless dreams, their weariness, their
waiting, their immobility, their movements in the darkness in
the village lit by a single electric bulb over the front door of one
of the lucky ones, the houses covered in grey shingles that
folded into the darkness at night, the sense of being alone in the

      The general store of my childhood seems like something
out of a movie, with its striking colours, its wooden shelves
painted yellow, its jukebox and its pool table. People went there
to make unbelievable pronouncements, to engage in lengthy
debates on highly improbable subjects. It was there I learned
that a man’s life was worth $3,500. For a long time, I wondered
how anyone could come up with such a figure, the only possible
explanation being the cost of the various materials of which
the human body is composed, but even at that, materialistically
speaking, even including the cost of construction, the amount
seemed to me to be unlikely. It was hard enough to accept the
idea that life could have a price at all, but it was even harder to
believe that that price could be so precisely calculated.

      One afternoon in winter, one of the customers grew indignant
at the fact that they had spent so much money to put a man
on the moon. Everyone knew that a creature from the moon
had landed on Earth, had looked around and decided not to
stay, and now here we were spending all that money to get him
back to where he came from. The ensuing discussion ended in
a series of shrugs. The customer was always right. Defeated by
irony and cursing the lack of education forced upon him by
those who profited from lying to him, he felt himself despised
by those who, full of their own knowledge, placed themselves
outside the lot of common mortals, a group to which he was so
cruelly forced to belong.

      I see my father playing billiards in his white shirt, grey hat,
black suspenders. My mother and brother driven frantic by the
accumulating bills, the credit given and never paid. Their thousand-
and-one plans for escape.

      It was in this picturesque setting that I stumbled upon the
secret order of the alphabet, a code that until that moment had
eluded me. I was in the store. I picked up an advertisement and
began to read it, unaided. When my mother realized what I was
doing she stopped and stared at me in astonishment, as though
I had been born mute and had just spoken for the first time. I
remember the sense of freedom, the towering vertigo that followed
the event. I remember the day when I learned to read. I
remember it exactly.

Analysis of  “Readings”

Such disarming, direct address is uncharacteristic of the early Chiasson but a feature of his later work. Termed recits des apprentissages, or tales of learning, his prose vignettes like “Readings” speak of formative moments in the poet’s apprenticeship that shaped his later vision. Significant about this one is both its particularity and its universality.

Its universality is easy enough to discern: he describes an experience that every reader will share, if not with equal clarity of remembrance then with an understanding of the struggles of mastery or the importance of acquiring the ability to read. It is that acquisition, Chiasson implies, that is our real and momentous break from servitude. To read is to achieve absolute independence: independence of thought and choice. The person who reads, and whose reading leads to an education (whether formal or informal), cannot be easily manipulated by dogma or opinion. He at least aspires to independent citizenship; she at least has the potential for social mobility.

When those possibilities touch closed communities, their effect is multiplied many times over. Such was the uniqueness of the experience of learning to read that Chiasson identifies in this essay. His pre-reading Acadie is “closed,” inhabited by people, like Plato’s cave dwellers, who see things second hand and reflected. They are watchers not doers, “their violent, pointless dreams, their weariness, their waiting, their immobility, their movements in the darkness in the village lit by a single electric bulb” confining them to bickering, gossip, and exaggeration. They have been reduced to commodities – bodies pegged at a bargain-basement price of $3500, the value of mineral weight – while his own parents and brother are similarly eroded by worry and obsequious good cheer.

The “secret order of the alphabet” offers freedom from that enslavement – from bickering, parochialism, mistreatment, and servility. It raises one up to such a height that “vertigo” or dizziness is a result. But so is clarity. There can be no question of the exactness of this calculation: reading equals freedom.

This recit, then, can be read in the larger context of a population still mired in the consequences of illiteracy. Chiasson is not condemning or ridiculing the neighbours of his youth, but rather remarking on the empowerment of one form of emancipation. Worth noting, too, is that he does not speak of reading as a way out, as escape, but as freedom. It is not an exit strategy or a fast track to elsewhere, for he has remained in Acadie, but it is a means to self-reliance.

from Beatitudes

               those who raise their heads in astonishment at the
raucous cry of birds,
               those who await the end of twilight,
               those who ceaselessly leaf through catalogues and
order nothing from life,
               those who sleep on their side, waiting for the pain
to subside in a single sip of water,
               those who believe it is time to bear their misery,
smiling through the procession of painful stupidities and
offering atonement for the fullness of errors that are, in
truth, so forgivable,
               those who weep and find no consolation, confusing
love with bitter anger in the loose thread of unravelling
               those who walk ahead even though the wind blinds
               they are, certainly, on their way to heaven; (9)


              those who file their shattered and pathetic lives in grey
metal filing cabinets,
those who need to engrave the chronicle of their
exploits on the walls of washroom cubicles,
              those who, wary of unforecast rain and early frost,
brake at every turn and fret over the nerve-wracking and
unforeseen condition of the road,
              those who tear up traffic tickets and watch this confetti
fall to the ground through the murky, fog-laden air of
intractable anger,
              those who, inadvertently or mistakenly, without
checking their contents, toss out papers they will search for
their entire lives, (35)

Analysis of Beatitudes

The two passages above come from Chiasson’s long poem Beatitudes (2007). Though the poem itself is unusual – it consists of 118 pages containing thousands of little notices that are turned to blessings – the expansive epic form is characteristic of Chiasson’s recent work. His prose-poem collections Climates (1996) and Conversations (1999) are similarly imagined and presented, each, like Beatitudes, extending and democratizing his address. As a unit, these collections are concerned with making communication more inclusive. Long before pen is ever put to paper, each begins in a simple consideration: How does one bridge the divide between writer and reader? The answer, given most poignantly in Beatitudes, is that communication is achieved in acceptance and commiseration. The thousands of little notices in Beatitudes – notices of peculiarity, foible, local colour, etc. – serve first as acknowledgements of difference, which opens communication. The tactic might be interpreted as secularizing religious practice – or as making the ordinary sacred. Either way, Chiasson’s form and intent serve to praise, accept, and sanctify in ways similar to the Biblical beatitudes that Western readers know.

Meaning “blessed” or “contented” in the original Greek (makarios), the Beatitudes that most Christians know is a work of consolation that prefaces the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of St. Matthew. In that form, the Beatitudes enumerates eight general dispositions that hasten entry into heaven – meekness of spirit, hunger for righteousness, purity of heart, etc. – qualities that differ considerably from what constitutes earthly bliss. That disjunction is intended to make us reflect on the differences between earthly and celestial realms (what constitutes happiness on earth, in other words, is quite different from what is needed to get into heaven). Chiasson’s modern version is conceived similarly, but instead of eight dispositions, it lists thousands, none more remarkable than others in a world seemingly without moral guidance, hierarchy of concern, or common sense. In such a world, blessed are those

… who file their shattered and pathetic lives in grey
metal filing cabinets,
those who need to engrave the chronicle of their
exploits on the walls of washroom cubicles,
            those who, wary of unforecast rain and early frost,
brake at every turn and fret over the nerve-wracking and
unforeseen condition of the road, …
            those who, inadvertently or mistakenly, without
checking their contents, toss out papers they will search for
their entire lives, (35)

After page upon page of these secular beatitudes, Chiasson’s point becomes clear: creating the conditions for communication begins in tolerating foible, accepting difference, and offering forgiveness. In that sense, the poem holds deep convictions about an overriding moral authority in the universe that need not be religious to be true. Perhaps that is why the words “blessed are” do not appear in Chiasson’s beatitudes. Implying blessing rather than conferring it suggests that acceptance is the sole criteria for brotherhood. The knowledge of peculiarity in difference that comes from that is thus a gift, not a burden. When we begin to see beauty in the idiosyncratic, Chiasson implies, we will begin to understand, then accept, then communicate, for the courage of others will become clear. The message seems especially appropriate for divided societies like New Brunswick, where separation more than shared struggle – policy more than accommodation – is always in greater abundance and always the source of greatest discord. But those differences should be reversed, asserts Chiasson: discord should come from contact, not separation; from dialogue, not containment; and from curiosity, not indifference. That the poem ends with a comma signals that brotherhood is still possible.

The poem is indicative of the distance Chiasson has travelled from his early days. Spirituality largely replaces aesthetics in his later work, as does his outreach to all New Brunswickers, regardless of language or disposition. In the years since the heady revolutionary days of the Acadian Renaissance, it has become clear that alienation from one’s land, dreams, and fulfillment is not solely a French problem in New Brunswick, and writers like Chiasson have advanced to address that situation. His contact with First Nations groups during his six-year term as Lieutenant Governor was especially instructive in that regard. His current work focuses on bridging divides and is therefore widely ecumenical in spirit and address.

Questions and Considerations for Reflection

► Chiasson’s experimentation and success in many forms of creative expression begs a very important question: what accounts for the artistic eclecticism of the Acadian writers? Most are not just literary artists but artists who work in other creative media. Raymond Guy LeBlanc, for example, is an accomplished pianist, Rose Després is a popular musician and actor, Chiasson a visual artist as well as playwright, filmmaker, and sculptor. With few exceptions (Allan Cooper is one of the very few), there is no equivalent in the province’s English writers. So what accounts for this multi-dimensionality? Is it a catholicity of perspective, the higher value that French cultures place on art, or differences in sensibility or upbringing?

Alden Nowlan’s “Warren Pryor” and Chiasson’s “Readings” make interesting counterpoints. Both examine the fate of a precocious youth in communities that are less than accommodating, but with different outcomes. The parents in each piece nurture their son, but Nowlan’s Warren comes to resent the privileges he has been accorded, those privileges separating him from the community he loves. Chiasson’s protagonist, likely himself, is a different personality. Though there is little evidence in the essay of parental intrusion, there is similar separation that reading precipitates. But that separation is tied to emancipation, not alienation. More experienced readers might think of this contrast in light of what Nova Scotia novelist Ernest Buckler does with David Canaan’s character in The Mountain and the Valley.

► The effort to translate Chiasson into English points to an important role that New Brunswickers have played (and continue to play) in Canadian literature. Notable, first, is that Chiasson’s most frequent translators are Fred Cogswell and Jo-Anne Elder. New Brunswick’s Elder is not just a three-time Governor-General’s Award nominee for literary translation, the long-time editor of the translation journal ellipse, and the convenor of Side by Side Festival Côte à Côte, but she follows in a line of English-language literary translators from New Brunswick. That line began with Charles G.D. Roberts (see Confederation Poets), whose 1890 translation of Philippe Aubert de Gaspé’s Les anciens canadiens (The Canadians of Old) established literary translation as part of the work of the Canadian writer. Two generations later, A.G. Bailey (see Modernism and the Fredericton Ferment), whose father had known Roberts, took up Roberts’ challenge in a spirit of post-war identity construction in New Brunswick, an action that licensed the work of Fred Cogswell, his student and later colleague, and the most accomplished literary translator that New Brunswick has produced. Cogswell (see Modernism and the Fredericton Ferment) revivified literary translation in Quebec with the collections One Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec (1970), A Second Hundred Poems of Modern Quebec (1971), The Poetry of Modern Quebec: An Anthology (1976), and The Complete Poems of Emile Nelligan (1983). Cogswell’s later mentorship of Jo-Anne Elder resulted in the co-edited anthology Unfinished Dreams: Contemporary Poetry of Acadie (1990), the first Acadian poems that many Anglophone New Brunswickers read. The role of New Brunswickers in Canadian literary translation has therefore been significant, and our experiment with biculturalism, though awkward and poorly realized, points to greater potential in the future. New Brunswick has the potential to become, in other words, the place where Canada’s two founding settler nations may come to know each other for the first time. More translation will advance that possibility.

Strategies for Teachers

Strategy 1: Poetry in Translation (All poems)

Poetry is extremely challenging to translate due to its word play and musicality. As with prose, directly translating word for word does not work because languages are constructed differently and expressions are tuned to cultural, regional, and contextual inference. With poetry, there are additional considerations. For example, if the original is rhymed, must the translation be, even if maintaining the rhyme requires awkward phrasing and word choice? Several ideas are presented below that will enable students to understand this translation challenge.

  1. As a warm up to poetry-specific strategies, ask students to think of local expressions that could easily be misunderstood. For example, how might people not from the Maritimes interpret the phrase “she’s some cold out”? If one was trying to translate this phrase into French, why would the results of a service such as Google Translate (“elle est un peu à froid”) be inaccurate? What is misrepresented in the translation, and what is lost?
  2. Before teaching one of Chiasson’s translated poems, challenge students to look at the original French version and produce their own translations. Depending on the class, this strategy might work better with a fragment of a poem rather than the entire work. Ask them to discuss their process and compare translations with a partner, or work through the process itself with a partner. What aspects of translation proved the more difficult? Which parts are they unsatisfied with, or proud of? Then, reveal the published translation. What alternate artistic choices did the translator make, and why?
  3. After reading and discussing Chiasson’s poem “Blue,” ask students to compare the final phrase in the original French – “ma mère aux ongles brisés d’avoir trop fouillé la terre / et qui a peut-être appris déjà à dire PLEASE” – to the Cogswell/Elder translation, “my mother with her fingernails broken from too much digging in the earth / and who may have already learned to say PLEASE.” How does the English word “please” resonate differently when it is contained within the French language poem? Why would “learned to say s’il vous plaît” be a poor translation?
  4. Have students visit the Poetry Translation Centre website look at a few examples of poems at different stages of translation – original/literal translation/final translation. First, discuss the mission of the organization: why are its members motivated to translate contemporary international poetry, and why is the final quality of translation so crucial to that mission? Next, ask students to compare the Translation Centre’s process (a multilingual translator producing the literal English version, then English poet[s] working with that to produce the final) with the work of Fred Cogswell and Jo-Anne Elder, writers fluent in both French and English. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each process?
  5. Finally, ask students to debate what credit/attribution the translators of poems should receive. Should their names be listed alongside that of original poets as co-authors? If that is going too far, why? What does it mean to author a poem?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Reflect critically on and evaluate their own and others’ uses of language in a range of contexts, recognizing elements of verbal and non-verbal messages that produce powerful communication
  • Writing and Representing: Make critical choices of form, style, and content to address increasingly complex demands of different purposes and audiences

Strategy 2: Painterly Poems/Poetic Paintings (All Poems)

Chiasson’s poetic imagery is rich and sensual, and his colours are always vibrant. Invite students to compare Chiasson’s poetry with examples of his art. What in the poetry reveals that Chiasson is also a visual artist, or in the art that Chiasson is a poet? Does familiarity with Chiasson’s poetry help students more deeply appreciate his art, and vice versa? For a more targeted exercise, ask students to compare the poem “Blue” with the painting “Evangeline Beach.”

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Note the relationship of specific elements of a particular text to elements of other texts

Strategy 3: Literacy and Power (“Readings”)

“Readings” could launch a discussion about this province’s troubling literacy statistics. In the 20th century, illiteracy was widespread in New Brunswick, particularly in Acadian communities. Although the situation has improved since Louis Robichaud’s social reforms, more than half of New Brunswickers today still struggle with functional literacy, and the gap between Anglophone and Francophone literacy levels remains the most pronounced in Canada. Ask students to investigate then discuss 1) the personal struggles individuals experience when they have difficulty with reading and writing; 2) the wider societal costs of illiteracy; 3) the barriers individuals face to improving their literacy; and 4) the resources available in their community for literacy training. Is the World Health Organization correct in identifying illiteracy as a public health problem? And, if so, what can and should New Brunswick do differently to address this problem?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Speaking and Listening: Ask discriminating questions to acquire, interpret, analyse, and evaluate ideas and information

Strategy 4: Beatifying (Beatitudes)

After reading and discussing these excerpts, which will surely remind readers of themselves or people they know, ask students to weave three of their own additions into the fabric of the poem. Suggest that students think of one human foible that 1) they want to accept of themselves; 2) they want to accept of a loved one; and 3) they want to accept in strangers. After that, ask students to reflect on Chiasson’s motivation for identifying and forgiving idiosyncrasies. What are the larger implications of such forgiveness for society and for individuals?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Writing and Representing: Use writing and other ways of representing to explore, extend, and reflect on the basis for their feelings, values, and attitudes

Further Reading

Arcand, Pierre-André. “Dossier Herménégilde Chiasson: Imposer la sensation.” Revue de l’Université de Moncton 8.2 (May 1975): 139-49.

Lonergan, David, ed. Paroles d’Acadie: Anthologie de la littérature acadienne (1958-2009). Sudbury, ON: Prise de parole,‎ 2010. 106-24.

Tremblay, Tony. “Strategy and Vision for an Intercultural New Brunswick in the Recent Poetry of Herménégilde Chiasson and the Translation of Jo-Anne Elder.” Quebec Studies: Special Issue on Literary Translation 50 (Fall 2010/Winter 2011): 97-111.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies of Chiasson, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia entry.


We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Herménégilde Chiasson and Goose Lane Editions for allowing us to use the poems and essay above for this curriculum. Further use or distribution of these poems and essay, however, is a violation of Canadian copyright law and is strictly prohibited. Under no circumstance may literary material used in the curriculum be reproduced, distributed, or stored without the permission of the copyright holder.

“Blue,” “Red,” and “Between The Season of Extravagant Love And The Season of Raspberries” appear in Unfinished Dreams: Contemporary Poetry of Acadie. Ed. and Trans. Fred Cogswell and Jo-Anne Elder. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1990. “Readings” appears in Herménégilde Chiasson’s Available Light. Trans. Wayne Grady. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2000. The passages from Beatitudes appear in Chiasson’s Beatitudes. Trans. Jo-Anne Elder. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2007.

All contents except for poetry and fiction copyright © Tony Tremblay, James W. Johnson, and Alexandra Cogswell.