Raymond Guy LeBlanc


  1. Biography
  2. Why Should We Read and Study LeBlanc?
  3. Literature & Analysis
    • “Land-cry”
    • “I Am Acadian”
    • Analysis of “Land-cry” and “I Am Acadian”
    • “Time Turns to Tenderness”
    • Analysis of “Time Turns to Tenderness”
  4. Questions and Considerations for Reflection
  5. Strategies for Teachers
  6. Further Reading
  7. Copyright


Raymond Guy LeBlanc was born in Saint-Anselme, NB in 1945 and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Université de Moncton in 1966. His first collection of poetry, Cri de terre (1972), was the first book published by Moncton’s Les Éditions d’Acadie, and is considered a foundational work of the Acadian Literary Renaissance. He is also a pioneering anthologist of contemporary Acadie, having co-edited Acadie/Expérience in 1976 with Jean-Guy Rens. Though employed at different times as a journalist, union advocate, professor, and social worker, he is best known as a poet and musician, having come to poetry through the music of his youth.

For a much more detailed biography of Raymond Guy LeBlanc, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia page.

Why Should We Read and Study LeBlanc?

  • We read LeBlanc for his quiet assurance, his tempered rage, and his love for Acadie. As the first of the Éditions d’Acadie poets, he has a place of prominence among New Brunswick’s revolutionary artists. Indeed, as critic Patrick Leech observes, Cri de terre was so finely tuned to the plight and longing of Acadians that it “almost single-handedly brought to light and named a culture, community, and experience that until then had lacked the voice to name itself.” Along with Ronald Després and Antonine Maillet, LeBlanc stood on the front lines of a culture in rapid transition, a culture, he writes in another poem in Cri de terre, that longed “Pour changer la misere des esclaves / Dans la realite des hommes nouveaux et libres” (“to change the misery of slaves / into the reality of new and free men”) (“Project de pays [Acadie-Québec]” 45).

Literature & Analysis


I live in a land-cry with roots of fire
Buried beneath the stones of loneliness

I have slowly plowed the dreadful kelp
In a bitter season of rain
With the crab-heart’s hunger to hold fast

A phantom ship I have risen to the river’s surface
Toward the fullness of human tides
And I have thrown the crowd to the promises of the

We shall live in the secret planets
Of slow anger and the upright wisdom of dreams

I live in a land-cry upstream from hopes
Cast off on every lip
Already moored to the sunlight on glowing trawlers

And every word abolishes the hard lie
The shameful caverns of our silence

“I Am Acadian”

I curse in English every mongrel goddamn in the
And fuck-its often stick in my throat
Along with christs flung against the windshield
Bleeding medium-rare

Had I at least a few twelve-storey tabernacles
And toasted hosties
I’d know myself to be a Québécois
Know I could blaspheme cathedrals of fear
But I am Acadian and content with aping
With his shiny Chrysler and his picture in the papers

How much longer will it take
Before this guy here runs me over
When I cross the street to play with myself in a room
And they put me at last in a graveyard
Like all the others
To the tune of “You will return to dust”
And then Shit
Who says we’re not that already.

I am Acadian
Which means
Stuffed dispersed bought alienated sold out
       rebellious. A here there and everywhere
Man torn open towards the future

Analysis of  “Land-cry” and “I am Acadian”

LeBlanc’s two poems above barely contain a seething rage that is his hallmark, at least in early phases of his work. Unlike his contemporary Guy Arsenault, though, LeBlanc always seems to be in control of his emotions, perhaps because of a difference in age (LeBlanc was older than Arsenault when their respective first collections were released).

Especially noticeable in LeBlanc are very specific localizing images and metaphors. In the first poem, “kelp,” “crab,” “phantom ship,” “tides,” and “trawlers” situate his work in an Acadie that is recognizable yet “lonely,” the latter because the speaker lives in an Anglophone culture that alienates, suffocates, buries, and silences. For all that, however, the speaker “hold[s] fast,” displaying a resilience that is the Acadian signature. With “slow anger” to sustain him – for he lives “upstream from hopes” – he bides his days, understanding only that his time will come and what will enable that moment is utterance, the “taking up of speech” (prise de parole).

The Acadian Renaissance that followed was first a renaissance of language in which Acadian French was strategically important. To speak was both to “abolish the hard lie[s]” of others and to end the “shame … of our silence” (“Land-cry”). Acadians themselves, LeBlanc boldly and bravely said, were complicit in their own condition, their shame contributing to their subjugation. He seems less to be blaming the victim, though, than anticipating Antonine Maillet’s lead in rousing victims from silence and sleep. As Maillet’s voice of collective conscience shouts at the end of Pélagie, “‘Bestir yourselves, you bunch of flabby asses! No one here’s going to spoon-feed you or tuck you in bed. Come out of your holes and take your place in the sun’” (258).

“I am Acadian” follows the same line of asserting uncomfortable truths about what contributes to Acadie’s subordination. The poem’s riffs on swearing are intended to differentiate Acadians from Québécois, who employ church blasphemy as their preferred form of subversion. For LeBlanc, however, that form of protest (indeed, any form of protest) is lost on Acadians, whose envy of the rich for their material comforts is a counterproductive if tempting distraction. Exasperated, the poem’s speaker throws up his hands in resignation to what Acadian identity has become, namely an identity “Stuffed dispersed bought alienated sold out / rebellious.” Correspondingly, Acadians are “A here there and everywhere / Man torn open towards the future” (“I am Acadian”). Potential, in other words, but still in raw form.

Is the ending positive or negative, the future bright or hopeless? LeBlanc leaves the question unanswered, and the plight of Acadians unresolved. Can a dispersed, bought, and alienated people forge a meaningful future as a nation? That was the question in 1972. The answer in 2016 seems to be “yes.”

“Time Turns To Tenderness”

Time turns to tenderness my love
At the simplest touch of your gaze
With the waking of the skyline over the city’s white
Where the speech of multitudes buzzes and murmurs

Time turns to tenderness my love
In the stretching of bodies the mewling of cats
And the prayers of grasshoppers
The offering to the light that plays in the curtain

Time turns to tenderness my love
When water caresses the skin
And far above the call of sirens
Sings my joy of knowing you alive

Time turns to tenderness my love
With the euphoric dance of snowflakes
The warm presence of the sun in the heart of crystals
The spontaneous movement of things that greet you

Time turns to tenderness my love
And I offer you with each breath
The secret life of the world’s breathing
Where exactly
At this instant
Time turns to tenderness
My love

Analysis of  “Time Turns To Tenderness”

Like all writers, LeBlanc is a person of many moods and phases, and so it is not surprising that much of his work after Cri de terre is lighter in tone and less pessimistic in outlook. Some of it, like the poem above, seems uncharacteristic, but his swerve from anger and despair to love and acceptance provides an answer to the question that seemed to pervade the last stanza of “I am Acadian.” And that answer is, once again, “yes”: the future did turn out to be positive for Acadians, and where there was “slow anger” (“Land-cry”) there now are “chants d’amour et d’espoir” (songs of love and hope). That is the title that LeBlanc gives to the 1988 collection of poems from which “Time Turns To Tenderness” comes. Many of the poems in that collection are written in celebration of fulfillment.

LeBlanc’s arc is instructive: Acadie may not yet have arrived at the destination that its early revolutionaries had envisioned, but it indeed has come a long way.

Questions and Considerations for Reflection

► Since LeBlanc’s early poetry stood on the cusp of a nationalist revolution, readers may want to reflect on how it compares with other works of similar context and intention. American poet Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is one point of comparison, as is the early work of Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), E.K. Brathwaite (Barbados), Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (Kenya), or Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua). Each of those writers was conscious of being revolutionary and, like LeBlanc, used literature as a means of urging and defining nationalist renewal. In all cases, authority and the power to name are taken from an abstract elsewhere and given over to individuals, who adopt a confessional voice to show how power has written itself on mind and body. Reclaiming that power, writes Whitman in Leaves of Grass, is to defiantly “sing the body electric.”

► LeBlanc’s reference to “the crab-heart’s hunger to hold fast” (“Land-cry”) invites more advanced readers of Canadian literature to reflect on the nature of “endurance” in the French literature of Canada as well as New Brunswick. One of the most important novels of French Canada – Louis Hémon’s Maria Chapdelaine (1916) – reaches many of the same conclusions as LeBlanc and the early Acadian Renaissance poets with regard to endurance. Hémon’s novel ends with a haunting epithet: “‘Strangers have surrounded us whom it is our pleasure to call foreigners; they have taken into their hands most of the rule, they have gathered to themselves much of the wealth, but in this land of Quebec nothing has changed. Nor shall anything change, for we are the pledge of it. Concerning ourselves and our destiny but one duty have we clearly understood: that we should hold fast – should endure. And we have held fast, so that, it may be, many centuries hence the world will look upon us and say: These people are of a race that knows not how to perish . . . We are a testimony’” (169). The parallels with the sentiment of the early Acadian contemporaries are clear to see, and those parallels invite consideration of the tactics of both minority cultures and “French nationhood” in Canada.

Strategies for Teachers

Strategy 1: The Phantom Ship (“Land-Cry”)

Ask students to look up the reference to The Phantom Ship, or the Chaleur Phantom. Likewise, research the figure of Joseph Broussard (Beausoleil), Acadian freedom fighter. Why is this fiery reminder – one that stubbornly refuses to remain submerged – such an apt metaphor for Acadie and its aspirations?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Use the electronic network and other sources of information in ways characterized by complexity of purpose, procedure or subject matter

Strategy 2: Chiac (“I Am Acadian”)

Read the poem with students, asking them to share their theories of why certain words are italicized. Then, show the untranslated poem, or simply explain that “Je Suis Acadien” is written partially in Chiac, a form of Acadian French that is mixed with English, and is distinctive to New Brunswick. As an example, point out the line that reads “Avant que c’te guy icitte me run over.” The translators (Fred Cogswell and Jo-Anne Elder) have identified the originally English words by italicizing them in the translation. How does the Chiac change or deepen our reading of the poem, and our understanding of the speaker’s identity?

As a related activity, ask students to research the history and rise of Joual in Quebec. Worth considering, in particular, is the role played (unwittingly) by Brother Anonymous (Frère Untel) at the start of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution to attempt to supress language. In comparing the histories of Chiac and Joual, students will discover the essential role that language always plays at the start of social revolutions.

Extension: The 2017 Jeux de la Francophonie (Francophone Games), held in Moncton, selected the Chiac phrase “Right Fiers!” (translated as “Right Proud”) as its slogan. Ask students to read an article about the slogan, considering the politics of language that ensued. What is behind the mixed Acadian reaction to this slogan?

Key Stage Curriculum Outcomes:

  • Reading and Viewing: Examine how texts work to reveal and produce ideologies, identities, and positions

Further Reading

Girouard, Anna. Raymond Guy LeBlanc, homme d’action. Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, NB: Éditions Balises, 2007.

Hémon, Louis. Maria Chapdelaine. 1916. Trans. W.H. Blake, 1921. Toronto: Dundurn, 2007.

LeBlanc, Catriona. “Cri de Terre: A Translation of Raymond Guy LeBlanc’s Cri De Terre.” Diss. Dalhousie University, 1998.

LeBlanc, Raymond Guy. Cri de terre. Moncton: Éditions d’Acadie, 1972.

---. La Mer en feu: Poèmes 1964-1992. Moncton: Éditions Perce-Neige/L’Orange bleue éditeur, 1993.

LeBlanc, Raymond Guy, and Jean-Guy Rens. Acadie/Expérience, Choix de textes Acadiens: Complaintes, poèmes et chansons. Montréal: Parti Pris, 1977.

Leech, Pat. “Raymond Guy LeBlanc.” New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia. Ed. Tony Tremblay. Fredericton: New Brunswick Studies Centre, 2015. 20 July 2020 <https://nble.lib.unb.ca/browse/l/raymond-guy-leblanc>.

Lonergan, David, ed. Paroles d’Acadie: Anthologie de la littérature acadienne (1958-2009). Sudbury, ON: Prise de parole,‎ 2010. 69-80.

Maillet, Antonine. Pélagie. 1979. Trans. Philip Stratford. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 2004.

Sutherland, Ronald. “Tabernacle à douze étages: The New Multi-cultural Nationalism in Canada.” Journal of Canadian Fiction 22 (Spring 1973): 72-77.

Viau, Robert, “‘Les poètes n’ont pas le droit de se taire’: l’oeuvre de Raymond Guy LeBlanc.” Études en littérature canadienne/Studies in Canadian Literature 26.1 (2001): 46-64.

---. “Raymond Guy LeBlanc: ‘Avant je criais aujourd’hui je parle.’” Études en littérature canadienne/Studies in Canadian Literature 25.2 (2000): 159-175.

For much more detailed primary and secondary source bibliographies of Raymond Guy LeBlanc, see his New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia page.


We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of Raymond Guy LeBlanc and Goose Lane Editions for allowing us to use the poems above for this curriculum. Further use or distribution of these poems, 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.

The LeBlanc poems above appear in Unfinished Dreams: Contemporary Poetry of Acadie. Ed. and Trans. Fred Cogswell and Jo-Anne Elder. Fredericton: Goose Lane, 1990.

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