“Watchers: A Journey To Alberta” by Jenny Crakes wins the 2014 Balocating Prize for Poetry

Congratulations Jenny!

The RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU

Congratulations to Jenny Crakes, a Junior in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and Professional Writing at Michigan State University. Crakes won the Center for Poetry’s 2014 Annie Balocating Prize for Poetry for her poem, “Watchers: A Journey To Alberta.” The judge for the 2014 Balocating Prize was Virginia Poet Laureate Sofia M. Starnes, who visited the Center for Poetry on April 16, 2014, to do a poetry reading and announce the winner. Starnes said the following about the winning poem: “The writing is uncluttered, yet rich in metaphor. The scenes are clean and fluid, the language flows seamlessly, the emotion — like centering prayer — gathers the scene around itself, yet is remarkably open. There is mystery, too, which I always value, a layered quality that leaves the reader wondering about the solitary traveler, the ‘what for’ and ‘why’ of the journey, even as the landscape…

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Participating in an American Course based on Canadian Studies

One of the best experiences I have had the privilege of participating in at Michigan State University was ISS 336(Canada Social Science Perspective). ISS at MSU stands for Integrative Studies in Social Science, and they are part of the universities requirements to ensure that students get a well-rounded education. There are tons of options to choose, ranging from classes that focus on a specific culture or geographic area to studying human interaction with the environment. This specific class was taught by the very prestigious Dr. Phillip Handrick. The class itself was rather small, thus allowing for participation to be a strong aspect of the class.

I found it incredibly interesting to learn so much about a culture that had literally been my “neighbor” for all of my life. Although I have been to Canada multiple times, it didn’t mean I understood all the characteristics and features that makes Canada the country it is. The rich and meaningful culture of all the provinces spread from Japan to all of Europe and even parts of South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Africa. The foods of Canada are just as colorful as the culture itself, ranging from Poutine (A fatty meal typically consisting of French fries, topping(Gravy) and Cheese Curds) all the way to dried fish in New Foundland to the amazing Japanese dishes on the West Coast.

Canada truly is an amazing country to both spend time in and to study as a topic. I highly enjoyed my time in this class and would recommend it to any student curious about the wonders that lie in wait in the Maple Leaf Nation.

Why Don’t We Know More About Canada?

As I was squandering time I could have spent working on homework the other day, I stumbled onto a YouTube video of Harvard students being asked where the capitol of Canada is. If you want to watch the video before reading the rest of this post, you can follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0fdYhgJIeE#aid=P8sWj-gVb3w or watch the video below.

Imagine the surprise I felt when watching this video and finding out that almost none of them knew that Ottawa is the capitol of Canada. Of all the students asked in the video, only one knew the correct answer. Want to know how she knew? She’s Canadian.

Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in America, as well as one of the most prestigious schools in the world. Harvard has a reputation for only admitting the best and brightest students, and there is the idea that getting a degree from Harvard can open essentially any door to you. You’ll find Harvard graduates in almost every field ranging from politics and finance, to archaeology and music. So with such high expectations for their students and such a large influence in almost every professional field, how is it that such highly qualified and talented students don’t know where the capitol of Canada is?

Canada is our Northern neighbor. Millions of dollars of trade goods cross the U.S.-Canada border every day. Thousands of Canadians either have dual citizenship, or cross the border regularly for work and play. Canadian snow-birds bring millions of dollars into the U.S. every year, and there are a large amount of cultural similarities between Canadians and Americans. America does more trade in goods and services with Canada than with the entire European Union on a regular basis.

The way I see it, America and Canada are highly interdependent on one other. We are nations that share not only a border, but people and resources as well. Canadian studies is a topic which should really be getting more attention than it currently does. As one of our strongest allies, don’t we, as American citizens owe it to ourselves to be informed about the nation living above us? With personal, economic, and political ties between our two nations, shouldn’t we at least know the basics about Canadian government and history? With a simple introduction to Canadian history and politics at the middle school, or high school level in the U.S., the upcoming generation would be far more knowledgeable about Canadian-American relations than most Americans currently are. It just seems ridiculous that students at one of the most prestigious universities in the world have no idea where the Canadian capitol is. If students at Harvard don’t know where it is, that’s probably a good indicator that most other students in the United States don’t know either. And that is an issue that we could easily fix.

Think my call for an early introduction to Canadian studies is ridiculous?

Have an alternative idea on the situation?

Let us know! Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!

Disparities in Reporting Neighborly News Between the U.S. & Canada


Part of my job here at the Canadian Studies Center includes sharing news stories about Canada and Canada-U.S. relationships via our social media sites.  Typically, I’m able to find a decent amount of material to share on topics ranging from health care and finance to museums and the housing market.  But recently I’ve begun to notice where all of these stories are coming from—Canadian news sources.  I felt perhaps I should give some American news sources a look to give our social media fans and followers some variety.  Lo and behold, however, that when searching American news outlets for information pertaining to Canada, there was little to choose from.

This led me to a comparative search of how much U.S. news was reported in Canada compared to how much Canadian news was reported in the U.S.  The results were disheartening.

When I compared two news sources of comparable size and stature in neighboring cities, Detroit & Windsor, (The Detroit Free Press & the Windsor Star) the difference in news was astonishing. When searching “U.S.” on the Windsor Star website almost 45,000 results are found.  Try searching “Canada” on the Detroit Free Press’ website.  You’ll get less than 2,500 results.  For two neighboring cities that are so economically interdependent on one another, this difference in recognition via news sources was very surprising to me.  According to Canadian Consul General to Michigan, Roy Norton, Michigan and Ontario have long-standing and important ties to one another.  Thousands of Canadians are season ticket holders of the Wings, Lions, Pistons, and Tigers; and many Southwestern Ontario sports enthusiasts consider Detroit teams to be ‘their’ teams as well.  More than 80 Michigan companies have operations in Canada (ex:  Dow Chemical, Kellogg, Dart Container, Stryker, Whirlpool), and 68% of all Michigan agricultural exports to the world are to Canada.  That means essentially 20% of everything grown on Michigan farms is sold to Canada.  218,000 jobs in Michigan depend on trade with Canada.  Without a strong relationship with Canada, Michigan’s economy would suffer exponentially!

After this I decided to see if other parts of the country were lacking Canadian news as much as Detroit.  The New York Times seemed like a good place to look—and it’s true, the results of typing “Canada” into the New York Times’ search bar on the website produced far more results.  About 23,400 from the past twelve months to be exact.  Searching “U.S.” in the search bar for the Globe and Mail website however, puts that number to shame.  236,995 results show up.  Granted I will admit, I have no idea if those results are from the past twelve months or longer, but still, having a difference of over 200,000 seems like a big difference to me.

With the trade and economic interdependence of the U.S. and Canada, I have to wonder why more Canadian news isn’t reported in the U.S.  Many border states share natural resources and depend on each other as partners in trade—so why isn’t there more recognition of that on the U.S. side of the border?  What’s happening in Canada has an effect on us in the U.S., so we need to be aware when events are occurring in Canada.

Thoughts, anyone?

For more info on the U.S./Canadian (specifically Michigan/Canadian) relationship, check out these articles written by Canadian Consul General to Michigan, Roy Norton: