Last March, as Megan Draper sang “Zou
Bisou Bisou” to Don, it all came back to me—the Yé-yé
movement, Gillian Hill’s rendition. Because I am génération x
I was a toddler when I first heard the song, a Fay Wray
in the grips of a giant “French go-go” fist. I ate my vichyssoise
in a highchair as my father took his pencil to the “French Unscrambler”
and my mother watched Jeopardy. This was years before Alex Trebek
would become host, stealing her heart along with William Shatner
and The Matrix’s Keanu Reeves.
Decades later, I had a thing for Oulipo novelist Raymond Queneau,
though he was Parisian French, not Canadian, like Mary Pickford
who became “America’s Sweetheart,” or Michael Ondaatje
who wrote The English Patient. Hard for me to get that Leslie Nielson
of Naked Gun was Canadian, or funnyman Mike Myers
or singers Anne Murray, Alanis Morissette, and k.d. lang.
My family was French Canadian the way Jack Kerouac
was—New England, Catholic. We got our news from Peter Jennings
who was born in Canada but now lived ici.
We watched Let’s Make a Deal hosted by Monty Hall,
Bonanza episodes guest starring Chief Dan George,
and Family Ties with a young Republican played by Michael J. Fox.
American ads claimed supermodel Linda Evangelista.
The only Canadian celebrity with an accent like my parents? Céline Dion.
I didn’t hear a trace of it in the voices of John Candy or Jim Carrey
or Raymond Burr’s Perry Mason. Today I want to sing it all—Brayon
French, Québécois, Chiac, Joual, Michif. Little kisses of Acadian.
Denise Duhamel’s most recent book of poetry, Blowout (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Ciricle Award. Her other books include Ka-Ching! (Pittsburgh, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001). The guest editor for The Best American Poetry 2013, she teaches at Florida International University in Miami.