"Unless you control your own economy, you cannot have your own culture and it is culture which finally determines the Canadian identity." -- Robin Mathews.

Robin Mathews, born in Smithers and raised in Powell River, graduated from UBC and worked as a producer for CBC Vancouver. "We have the privilege to grow up almost in wilderness," he says. "and we have the privilege to be distant from the centres of power. These combine to give us a kind of innocense. The genuine multi-culturalism of British Columbia teaches us at the earliest age that we are just people. It's the most beautiful place in the world!" Mathews taught at Carleton University for 20 years before returning to teach at Simon Fraser University in the Centre for Canadian Studies. He was also in Paris as a young academic in 1968 when the streets erupted with student-led protests and a national strike. He has collected more than 70 posters and 100 handbills from the turmoil. "Nearly ten million went on strike," he recalled 30 years later. "At one point there was a march in the steets of Paris of a million people." By comparison, the Canadian public has been docile about the management of their economy and culture. Mathews believes that "studying the narrow selection of great literary works largely from the two empires, Britain and the States, denies examination of our real selves." An ardent nationalist, he has been an outspoken critic of Free Trade and privatization. He has also argued for the destruction of liberalism in the 1970s as a precondition for creating a unique Canadian identity.

Robin Mathews' books such as The Struggle for Canadian Universities (co-edited with Jim Steele) and Canadian Literature: Surrender or Revolution (literary criticism) have drawn the ire of some academics and writers for alleged anti-Americanism. These were followed by Canadian Identity: Major Forces Shaping the Life of a People (Steel Rail 1988) and Treason of the Intellectuals (Voyageur 1995). "The general, agreed-upon reality in North America," he told B.C. BookWorld, "is a middle class reality and it defines the human condition in our time. But it is a narrow, blind view. My work calls into question the complacency of this reality, and that is why there are those who are disturbed by the reality my work represents." Particularly disturbed was the American-born UBC English professor Warren Tallman who conducted a public feud with Mathews for many years. Mathews' books of poetry include Language of Fire, The Beginning of Wisdom and The Death of Socialism and Other Poems (Voyageur, 1995). His collection of short stories is Blood Ties. In 2000 he published another poetry book, Being Canadian in Dirty Imperialist Times (Vancouver: Northland $15.95), followed by his eleventh volume of poetry, Think Freedom (Northland Publications, 2004). "We have few good political poets in Canada," wrote reviewer Ron Dart in the Pacific Rim Review of Books, "and Think Freedom ably demonstrates why Mathews is our best at the present time."

Robin Mathews lives and teaches and argues in Vancouver.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "Poetry" "Economics" "Politics"