James McIntyre [The Cheese Poet] (25 May 1828 – 31 March 1906 / Forres, Scotland)
Biography of James McIntyre
James McIntyre (baptised 25 May 1828 – 31 March 1906), called The Cheese Poet, was a Canadian poet.
McIntyre was born in Forres, Scotland and came to Canada in 1841 at the age of 14. He worked as a hired hand to begin with, performing pioneer chores that formed the basis of a number of his works. Later, he settled in St. Catharines, Ontario, where he dealt in furniture. There he married and had a daughter and son. He later moved to Ingersoll, Ontario, then a town of 5,000 on the banks of the Thames in Oxford County, the then-heart of Canadian dairy country. He opened a furniture factory on the river as well as a store which sold furniture, along with such items as pianos and coffins.
He was well-loved in the community, from which he often received aid in hard times, due in part to his poesy and oratorical skills -- he was called on to speak at every kind of social gathering in Ingersoll. The region seems to have inspired him, and it was in celebration of the proud history of Canada, the natural beauty and industry of the region, and especially (as noted above) its cheese, that the majority of his oeuvre was written.
McIntyre was uninhibited by minor shortcomings -- such as his lack of literary skills. The Toronto Globe ran his pieces as comic relief, and the New York Tribune expressed amusement, but their mockery did not dampen his enthusiasm. He is assumed to have continued writing until his death, in 1906.
McIntyre was forgotten after his death for a number of years, until his work was rediscovered and reprinted by William Arthur Deacon -- literary editor of the Toronto Mail and Empire and its successor the Globe and Mail -- in his book The Four Jameses (1927).
In recent years a volume of his work, Oh! Queen of Cheese: Selections from James McIntyre, the Cheese Poet (ed. Roy A Abramson; Toronto: Cherry Tree, 1979) collected his poems together with a variety of cheese recipes and anecdotes. However, the greatest boost to his fame probably came from a number of his poems being anthologized in the collection Very Bad Poetry, edited by Ross and Kathryn Petras (Vintage, 1997). This included his masterpiece and possibly best-known poem, "Ode on the Mammoth Cheese Weighing Over 7,000 Pounds," written about an actual cheese produced in Ingersoll in 1866 and sent to exhibitions in Toronto, New York, and Britain.
An annual poetry contest is held in Ingersoll, Ontario, to honour McIntyre. The contest is sponsored by The Ingersoll Times and the Corporation of the Town of Ingersoll, and includes a cheese-themed poetry competition.
James McIntyre's Works:
Musings on the Canadian Thames (1884);
Poems of James McIntyre (1889)
Oh! Queen of Cheese: Selections from James McIntyre, the Cheese Poet (1979)
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- A Bird's Nest
- A Christmas Tree
- A Civic Holiday Trip
- A Concert İnvitation
- A Concert-Impromptu
- A Crooked Looking Glass
- A Providential Escape
- A Romance of Canada
- Abundant Harvest
- Adventure on a Raft
- Agricultural, Implements and Machinery
- American Poets: Longfellow
- An Autograph
- Book Agent Story
The farmers now should all adorn
A few fields with sweet southern corn,
It is luscious, thick and tall,
The beauty of the fields in fall.
For it doth make best ensilage,
For those in dairying engage
It makes the milk in streams to flow,
Where dairymen have a good silo.