Garth Ukrainetz feeds a chickadee friend in Blackmud Creek in Edmonton last March. The poet has written a piece about Tatamagouche, after driving by the village on a vacation to Nova Scotia in 2019. Submitted photo

TATAMAGOUCHE – A chance drive by Tatamagouche more than a year ago stuck with Garth Ukrainetz.

The Poet Laureate of the Blackmud Creek, in the south part of Edmonton, and his daughter travelled to Nova Scotia for summer vacation in August 2019. As they were on their way to the Bay of Fundy, they drove past the North Shore village on Aug. 15. That’s when Ukrainetz had a feeling – to write a poem about Tatamagouche. Fifteen months to the day later, Ukrainetz penned Tatamagouche.

“It’s hard to explain that poetic feeling,” said Ukrainetz, in an email to The Light. “I’ve had those poetic hunches before and have followed through on them, which brought forth wonderful poems.”

Approximately 4,500 Canadians died in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. Many were lost at sea.

Ukrainetz’s poem, Tatamagouche, is about a Royal Canadian Navy sailor from the village “hopelessly adrift” in the Atlantic Ocean. The sailor clings to a piece of wood from his ship, which sank after being torpedoed by a U-boat.

“The water is freezing cold, he’s all alone, and it’s the middle of the night,” said Ukrainetz, adding the sailor doesn’t think he’s going to make it. “So he starts singing his dirge in the darkness.”

Readers of the poem don’t know if the sailor dies in the water or is rescued, both of which happened during the Battle of the Atlantic.

“Yes, this is a poem, but more importantly, it’s a song,” explained Ukrainetz. “For in the water, the floundering sailor sang a dirge… he did not recite a poem. I first wrote Tatamagouche as a poem, but a wonderful melody drifted in as I was writing it.”

Born in the Prairies, Ukrainetz says Tatamagouche is a poem/song “that applies to all Canadians, no matter what region they’re from.”

Part of Ukrainetz’s inspiration for the poem comes from RAdm Bob Auchtwerlonie’s piece on page 2 in the Nov. 9 edition of the Lookout newspaper. The statement reads, “”During the Battle of the Atlantic, many were lost at sea, therefore many Canadian families cannot visit the final resting place for their loved ones. Let’s grieve with those families and continue to remember all sacrifices made to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today in our daily routines.”

“So, even though we do not know the exact fate of the young sailor in my poem Tatamagouche, this poem is dedicated to all Canadians lost at sea in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War,” said Ukrainetz.

The poet says the village’s name grabbed his attention those 15 months ago in part by its meaning – meeting of the waters.

“In a way, it could be said that ‘Tatamagouche’ means ‘tears in the ocean,’” he said.

Edmonton’s Garth Ukrainetz stands in front of the HMCS Sackville docked at the Halifax wharf during a vacation in the summer of 2019. Submitted photo

Ukrainetz has written a handful of poems with subjects connected to Nova Scotia. His tribute of HMCS Sackville was published in The Trident recently, as well as The Lookout. In May, he wrote a tribute to fallen Canadian Forces Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey. Another poem pays homage to Slt Abbigail Cowbrough, one of six Canadian Armed Forces members to die in a Cyclone crash earlier in the year. That poem was written in response to Cowbrough’s performance of Amazing Grace on the deck of HMCS Fredericton as a tribute to the victims of Nova Scotia’s mass shooting in April.

He says Plays Abbigail is one of the examples where he’s had that “poetic hunch” and had to follow through.

“As soon as I saw the video of her playing the bagpipes on HMCS Fredericton, I knew there was a ‘poem’ there,” said Ukrainetz.

He’s also written 17 poems about the World War II flower corvettes of the Royal Canadian Navy. Of those, Ukrainetz’s poem written about HMCS Pictou was published in the Pictou Advocate for Remembrance Day.

NOTE: The author has given permission to The Light to print his poem, Tatamagouche, in its entirety.

Tatamagouche

By Garth Paul Ukrainetz
Poet Laureate of the Blackmud Creek

My heart is in Tatamagouche
My darling I’ll never love more
To guard the Atlantic my calling
To answer torpedoes of war
Adrift on the waves of the ocean
At mercy of tempest at sea
My heart is in Tatamagouche
My tears all that’s left within me

My heart is in Tatamagouche
A cold lonely dirge I now sing
My ship on the bottom of ocean
To wreckage of wood I must cling
In tears for my home Nova Scotia
In tears for my dear family
My heart is in Tatamagouche
My tears all that’s left within me

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Ⓒ2020 Garth Paul Ukrainetz
In tribute and remembrance
to all Canadians lost at sea
in the Battle of the Atlantic
“Lest We Forget”