The 2009 Pratt Lecture
by J. Edward Chamberlin
with original wood engraving by Wesley W. Bates
How this happens, how a kind of joy comes out of a song of sorrow, is one of the mysteries of art and of life, as baffling as any of the mysteries of science. It requires, and rewards, faith. Understanding it is part of understanding how stories and songs work, how they offer a moment in which the imagination pushes back against reality even as it surrenders to it, creating a covenant in wonder between ourselves and the world.
J. Edward Chamberlin takes the title for his 2009 Pratt lecture from E. J. Pratt’s poem “The Fog.” Pratt writes of the fog, “It drew the song from our throats”; and the poem draws from Chamberlin a remarkable meditation on how islands inhabit our imagination and how island traditions have shaped cultures, have given us stories and songs that sustain us. With his typically wide reach, Chamberlin gathers a host of writers, thinkers, singers, explorers and rebels to inform this lecture: from Franklin Russell to Wallace Stevens, from Thomas Hardy to Jacob Le Maire, from Emily Dickinson to Ron Hynes, from William Wordsworth to Louis Riel. The result is an essay of remarkable breadth and generosity that probes the “covenant in wonder” which is the essence of Story. This lecture, the 40th anniversary Pratt Lecture, was delivered March 26, 2009 at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, in St. John’s.
The frontispiece is a wood engraving by Wesley W. Bates; it was commissioned for this chapbook.
The type is Dante, and was cast by Michael and Winifred Bixler of Skaneateles, New York.
The papers are Hahnemuhle Schiller, Matsuo Kozo, and Natur Cover.
The presswork and binding were done by Marnie Parsons at Running the Goat Press, in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Printed in an edition of no more than 250 copies.