Glenn E. Pond
Glenwood (Glenn) Emery Johnson Pond was born on 5 November 1914 in Lower Durham, York county, New Brunswick, and died on 22 March 1986 in Fredericton after a brief illness. He was the son of Laura Theresa Johnston and Oliver Cromwell Pond, and was the eleventh of twelve children, all surviving infancy.
The Pond family, despite being big, was close and endured many of the hardships of living in rural New Brunswick during the early-twentieth century. Pond lost his father in the winter of 1919 after he contracted a flu known locally as “The Black Death.” The flu struck able-bodied men, killed them suddenly, and then turned their bodies dark after death (Pond, “Lower Durham” 60). Though he was young when his father died, Pond remembered him fondly, referring to him as a “blonde giant” who was well over six feet, four inches tall, superstitious, and never missed a day of work at the lumber camp because he was ill (“Lower Durham” 60).
Pond acknowledges his mother as an equally brave and strong force that kept the family together during the “tragic year of 1919” (“Lower Durham” 60). She took care of her family, who had contracted the flu, by working night and day for two weeks without rest, escaping the flu herself because, he remembered her saying, she “didn’t have the time” (“Lower Durham” 60). When he published Selected Verse, Pond dedicated it to his mother and father.
Pond attended the Lower Durham School, where his most cherished teacher was the “indestructible” Jean Sansom (“Lower Durham” 62). He admired Sansom for her dedication to a teaching career that lasted over sixty years and for never being “satisfied with merely the correct answer to a problem, but insisting that the student show her, step by step, how he or she arrived at the solution” (“Lower Durham” 62).
Pond was married to Lillian Pearl Saunders (1904–1989) of Kingston, New Brunswick, who brought three children into the marriage from a previous relationship: Florence, David, and James (“Saunders”).
Growing up in the village of Lower Durham and having graduated from the New Brunswick School of Agriculture at the Dominion Experimental Station of Fredericton, Pond was influenced greatly by the land and the people of the Nashwaak River area. He wrote about his experiences and memories of living near the rivers and used his poetic voice as a gift to the people of his village. For example, when his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cleghorn, celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary, he wrote a poem and then performed it at their celebration (“Cleghorns Celebrate 60th” 6).
Pond published three collections of poetry. His first, Rhymes of the Restigouche, was published in 1961 and was introduced as a collection of “sensitive poems with many lines of delightful imagery and charm” (R.C.H. 5). Uncertain about what his reception would be, Pond opened his collection with a humorous verse as an invitation to readers:
Be gentle with me Reader,
These verses are my best,
And if you think they’re ‘not so hot’
You should have seen the rest! (6)
In his other collections, Mysie and Other Poems (1976) and Selected Verse (1984), he continued to introduce himself, often satirically, by describing his writing process. In Selected Verse, he writes of “being unable to sing or whistle, the writing of verse has long been my only form of self expression. Therefore, it is my earnest hope that the reader of these verses may derive some measure of pleasure from my effort” (5).
Pond’s most recognized collection is Mysie and Other Poems, an assortment of “romantic lyrics and narratives in which he expresses his attitudes towards nature, history, and local mythology” (Ridley 7). The title poem, “Mysie,” arguably Pond’s most well-known, dramatizes the narrative of Margory “Mysie” MacDonald, one of the Scottish settlers who came to New Brunswick in the nineteenth-century on the promise made by the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Land Company that housing and provisions would be provided for them (Schwartz & Harding 11). Like others, she soon realized that she had been tricked when many settlers died during the first winter. Despite the obstacles of the ill-fated Scottish settlement, Mysie continued to live in the caves of the area and sustained herself by fishing, hunting, trapping, doing chores for neighboring farmers, and selling hand-crafted brooms to local families (Schwartz & Harding 11). Pond adds romance to the narrative by including a love affair between Mysie and the son of an Indigenous chief. Pond encapsulates the isolation and horror of being a sole survivor, writing in the dramatic narrative tradition of the nineteenth century:
Gently forcing liquids down.
Gruel from inner bark of balsam,
Lichen on the tree trunks found.
Slowly still the maid responded.
Horror stricken drew her breath;
Gone her sire, the stout MacDonald –
All her people cold in death! (Selected Verse 68)
In addition to being a poet, Pond was a member of the Nashwaak Bicentennial Association, an organization founded in 1981 to celebrate the Loyalists who settled along the Nashwaak Valley of New Brunswick (“Fonds MC315”). Pond served as charter vice-president and a member of the executive and history committees (“Glenn Pond”). The association published newsletters seasonally, beginning in 1981 and ending in 2007, in which Pond was featured predominately, typically with a poem about the Nashwaak and settler life. In 1984, the association published And the River Rolled On… Two Hundred Years on the Nashwaak in celebration of the bicentennial. Pond wrote the chapter on the history of the early settlers in Lower Durham, as well as including personal anecdotes of his life in the village.
Critical appraisal of Pond’s poetry comments on its accessibility to readers and lauds it for giving voice to a people steeped in their natural world. “It is as if [Pond’s] river is a symbol of the total life force,” observes one critic, “incorporating history, myth, adventure, growth, decay” (Ridley 7). Another critic observes that his works display a “gentleness and kindness of heart that seeks constructive paths and holds no venom for a reality that exists” (R.C.H. 6). While his output was light, his poetry “reveals an important part of ourselves and our surroundings” (Ridley 7). Because his work embodies the spirit of the Nashwaak River, he has been rightly proclaimed the “poet laureate” of the Nashwaak valley (Nowlan 9).
Jamie Foster, Spring 2019
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Pond, Glenn E. “Lower Durham.” And The River Rolled On… Two Hundred Years on the Nashwaak. Nashwaak Bridge, NB: Nashwaak Bicentennial Association, 1984. 57-67.
---. Mysie and Other Poems. N.p.: n.p., 1976.
---. Rhymes of the Restigouche. Ilfracombe, England: Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd., 1961.
---. Selected Verse. Fredericton, NB: Centennial Print and Litho Ltd., 1984.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
“Cleghorns Celebrate 60th.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB] 14 Jan. 1978: 6.
“Fonds MC315 – Nashwaak Bicentennial Association.” ArchivesCANB. 2002. Council of Archives New Brunswick. 15 Feb. 2019
“Glenn Pond.” 1784–1984 Nashwaak Bicentennial Association Newsletter. Apr. 1986: 1-5.
Jones, Stephen Morgan. “Agricultural Research Stations.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. 2016. Historica Canada. 19 Feb. 2019
Nowlan, Michael O. “Foreword.” Selected Verse. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data, 1984. 9.
R.C.H. “Foreword.” Rhymes of the Restigouche. Ilfracombe, England: Arthur H. Stockwell Ltd., 1961. 5.
Ridley, Michael. “Book Bug.” The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB] 10 Aug. 1977: 7.
Saunders, Lillian Pearl. “Birth Certificate.” Vital Statistics from Government Records. RS141. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Fredericton. 25 Feb. 2019
Schwartz, Roger H., & Agnes Harding. The Woodlands Book 2007. Fredericton, NB: Roger H. Schwartz, 2007.
Staff Special. “38 Young Farmers Receive Diplomas.” Telegraph-Journal [Saint John, NB] 14 Dec. 1934: 2-3.