Gaston Miron, poet, publisher (born 8 January 1928 at Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, QC; died 14 December 1996 in Montréal, QC). An Officer of the National Order of Québec and a Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France’s highest honours. Gaston Miron’s signature book, L’homme rapaillé(partially translated as The March to Love: Selected Poems of Gaston Miron) sold over 100,000 copies, making him one of the most read authors in Québec literature.

The Early Years

One of five children, Miron moved to Montréal at 19, where he worked at various jobs — clerk, waiter — and took night classes in the social sciences at the University of Montréal. It was there that he met the poet Olivier Marchand, with whom he went on to collaborate.

Miron spent the period between 1947 and 1953 discovering the values of his province — its landscapes, people, heritage, social conditions and politics. In 1953, Miron and a few friends, including Marchand, founded the Montréal publishing house Éditions de L'Hexagone, the first press devoted exclusively to poetry in Québec.

Poetry

Miron’s first book, published on L’Hexagone in 1953, was Deux sangs, co-authored by Olivier Marchand. It was followed 17 years later by his masterpiece, L’homme rapaillé (1970), which won the Prix Québec-Paris that same year. Miron’s verse alternates between the deliriously romantic and the fiercely political. One of L’homme rapaillé’s most celebrated poems, “La marche à l’amour,” opens with lines worthy of great 19th century French romantics such as Victor Hugo and Alphonse de Lamartine:

Tu as les yeux des champs de rosées

tu as des yeux d’aventure et d’années-lumière

la douceur du fond des brises au moi de mai…

By contrast, “Notes sur le non-poème et le poème,” also from L’homme rapaillé, has a more distinctively modernist and occasionally didactic tone:

Le non-poème

c’est ma tristesse

ontologique

la souffrance d’etre un autre

Le non-poème

ce sont les conditions subies sans espoir

de la quotidienne alérité

For Miron, “le non-poème” is associated with English domination in Québec.

L’homme rapaillé was updated and incorporated into the 1975 book Courtpointes, and two posthumous volumes of poetry and prose followed, Poèmes épars (2003) and Un long chemin (d’autres prose) (2004). A volume of his correspondence with the poet Claude Haeffely appeared in 1989.

Miron’s poems are rooted in the here and now, but they remain faithful to Québec's ancestral language, customs and usages. As such, Miron is able to crystallize certain isolated images: the man we meet on the street and whom we find in ourselves; the man committed to a political struggle; the social individual caught up in a common destiny; and the land. Through these themes, his writing exalts and reconciles opposing elements in a time frame that is repetitive but that tends towards an ultimate transcendence. The poetry is dense and measured.

Miron was the first poet to show the Québécois as he is; it is for this reason that he had a significant influence on the poetry of the 1960s and 1970s.

Separatism

“La poésie canadienne-francaise’ s’est terminée vers 1960,” Miron wrote, referring to the beginning of the Quiet Revolution. “C’est maintenant la poésie québécoise.” For Miron, separatism, and a poetic celebration of Québec, its language, history, and people, were inextricably intertwined. Shortly after publication of L’homme rapaillé, Miron was arrested and imprisoned without trial during the October Crisis.

Miron’s specific concern for writing in Québec is expressed by his involvement, with Lise Gauvin, in Écrivains contemporains du Québec: depuis 1950 (1989) and Écrivains contemporains du Québec: anthologie (1998). His book of letters with Claude Haeffely, À bout portant: correspondence 1954-1965 (1989) is an important chronicle of a formative period in Québécois literature. Miron has also been translated into English: The Agonized Life: Poems and Prose (1980) and The March to Love: Selected Poems (1986).

When Gaston Miron died in December of 1996, the then ruling Parti québécois gave him a full state funeral, all the flags in the province flying at half-mast.

Awards

  • 1970 : Lauréat du prix littéraire France-Canada
  • 1970 : Prix de la revue Études françaises
  • 1971 : Grand Prix littéraire de la Ville de Montréal, pour L'Homme rapaillé
  • 1972 : Prix littéraire Canada-Communauté française de Belgique
  • 1978 : Prix Ludger-Duvernay
  • 1981 : prix Guillaume-Apollinaire pour L'homme rapaillé
  • 1983 : Prix Athanase-David
  • 1985 : Prix Molson
  • 1988 : Prix Fleury-Mesplet
  • 1991 : Médaille de l'Académie des lettres du Québec
  • 1991 : Ordre des francophones d'Amérique
  • 1993 : Prix Le Signet d'Or, catégorie Rayonnement à l’étranger
  • 1993 : Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République française
  • 1995 : Doctorat honorifique de l’Université de Montréal
  • 1996 : Officier de l’Ordre national du Québec