During the last two years, Piggy has been recognized, and is now widely studied along side the Odyssey, Paradise Lost, The Prelude, and Allophanes, as one of the world’s great literary works. This Snorton Critical Edition of the poem is designed for use in university literature courses throughout Canada and Quebec, as well as in the United States, British Columbia, Finland, and elsewhere.

     According to the letters to Charles G.D. Roberts that are printed for the first time here, Buchanan wrote Piggy in 1907-08 at a time of great emotional turmoil and ideological transition. In the course of her harrowing relationship with Roberts, she forged a new identity for herself as both a woman and a poet, revealing in her letters a shrewd understanding, not only of her own poetic means and purposes, but also of Roberts’s poetry and Canada’s emerging literary tradition. As the revelation of a creative mind in action, Buchanan’s correspondence with Roberts is unsurpassed in the annals of Canadian literature and, if at all, only marginally less incandescent and illuminating than Melville’s correspondence with Hawthorne during the writing of Moby-Dick. “Oh to do for the pig what [James McIntyre] has done for the cheese!” exclaims Buchanan in her letter of January 12, 1908, but she could just as well—and with equal certainty of success—have said “what Herman Melville has done for the whale!”

     Although Piggy shares with Canadian poetry from Thomas Cary to Steve McCaffery a reliance on cliché and pastiche that characterizes the culture as a whole, its most typically Canadian feature is its depiction of an external reality that is by turns comfortably ordered and disturbingly chaotic. By making the focus of her poem the pig (and, in “Duckies,” the duck), Buchanan pays homage to those domesticated yet unruly forces of nature which threaten to overwhelm both self and society throughout Canadian literature. “[A] friend” and “a gent” though he may seem, Buchanan’s pig is nevertheless the manifestation of a mischievous and even anarchic force that “may dig, ... may root, and our gardens ... loot.” When ranged “in a row” or surrounded by roast potatoes, Canadian “duckies” appear harmless enough, but beneath this benign surface—under the “feather beds” of domesticity to which they are partly assimilated by Buchanan—lies a predatory and Wacoustan reality: “of fowls that gobble stuff / Ducks can beat them all”:

See them preen their feathers
     See their wings they flap,
And for all outsiders
     They do not care a rap.

There can be little doubt that Northrop Frye had Piggy and “Duckies” in mind when he wrote of a pervasive “tone of deep terror in regard to nature” in Canadian poetry (“Conclusion,” Literary History of Canada, ed. Carl F. Klinck [1965; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1973], 830).

The text of Piggy in the present edition is surrounded by the editorial paraphernalia prepared by Susan Bailey and D.M.R. Bentley for the Canardian Poetry Press edition of the poem. As well as containing utterly invaluable critical and scholarly material, the Bailey and Bentley edition played a crucial role in shaping modern responses to Piggy and, indeed, in elevating the poem to canonical and classical status. What T.S. Eliot did for John Donne, what William Arthur Deacon did for The Four Jameses, and what Carole Gerson has recently done for Edna Jaques (“Sarah Binks and Edna Jaques: Parody, Gender, and the Construction of Literary Value,” Canadian Literature 134 [Autumn 1992]: 62-73), Bailey and Bentley have done for Mary Buchanan. For this reason, and because it contains an authoritative text of Piggy itself, the Canardian Poetry Press edition is reprinted in its entirety here. To facilitate use of the present critical compilation, page references to Bailey and Bentley’s excellent “Introduction” and “Explanatory Notes” in the ensuing critical materials have been keyed to the Snorton Critical Edition.

The critical materials reprinted here reflect the wealth of Mary Buchanan research, scholarship, and theorization during the two years since the publication of the superb Bailey and Bentley edition of Piggy. Perhaps as many as twelve articles—eleven of which have been selected for reprinting—have focused almost exclusively on Piggy and “Duckies,” and there have been more-or-less detailed and lengthy discussions of both poems in such journals as Canardian Litterature, Canadian Poultry, Assays on Canadian Writhing, The Grand River Sachem Review of Books and Animal Husbandry, and Open Litter, as well as in several aspirational magazines like Vancouver Life and City and Country Home and, of course, numerous monographs in the Theory/Culture Series from the University of Toronto Press. In its sheer bulk, Piggy criticism confirms the observation of Peter Stallybrass and Allon White in The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986) that “academics, apparently the very bearers of the rule of discursive purity and order, are an infinite resource of information about pigs...of recondite information, clearly of deep significance, about the porcine breed” (x-xi). As Oscar Wilde has Lord Henry Wotton observe in The Picture of Dorian Gray (Toronto: Penguin, 1985), “pork-packing is the most lucrative profession in [North] America, after politics” (44).

The perspectives on Piggy in the “Criticism” section are not intended to provide an historical overview of informed opinion or a conspectus of conflicting interpretations. Nevertheless the major critical, scholarly, theoretical, and professional issues surrounding Piggy are canvassed: its genesis in the context of Buchanan’s life; its relation to previous Canadian literature; its impact on later Canadian writers, its mimetic form; its canonical aspects and its professional value as a pretext for SSHRCC-funded conferences.

For their generous help, advice, and forbearance in preparing the Snorton Critical Edition of Piggy, I wish to thank all the graduate students, editorial assistants, and other little piggies that have worked on my research projects over the decades, all of whom (with the exception of the loveable but dense J.M. Stover) declined to have their names mentioned in this volume, and the majority of whom have sadly since wee-wee-weed right out of academia.