Victoria College
Toronto, Ont.
May 19, 1956

Dear Miss Wendy:

The poem might have been entitled 'The Professor Goes Fishing.' That is his engrossing hobby and he is always glad when the final examinations in May are marked.

When a student fails in a subject, a 'star' or 'asterisk' is attached to that subject in the published class-list. The professor has been continually bored with marking papers, so much so that his face might be considered as resembling an 'asterisk' – a dull one at that.

Now that May is over, he is free; he assembles his fishing gear for, let us say, trolling, and starts off in his boat for the lake. After an indefinite time he hooks a big one – a very big one. For an instant he doesn't know how big it is; then he realizes the size and while he is reeling or 'hauling' in, everything in the world seems to disappear or to be unimportant in the excitement which makes his 'asterisk' face glow. The sun and the sky are merely reflections in the water. The class-room, the examinations, the failure, etc., etc., are all forgotten. He thinks no more of May or of September (when the Supplementals begin).

His whole life of, say, seventy years is concentrated in that one hour of 'hauling him in.' This hardly accords with the teenager reference though I think the poem could be so interpreted provided enough imaginative license came to the reader's assistance.

In Absentia refers to his thought even more than to his physical absence from the classroom.

Hoping this interpretation carries sufficient sense,

Yours in Absentia,
E.J. Pratt

Miss Wendy
A student who had written enquiring about the 'meaning' of Pratt's short poem 'In Absentia.' This letter is his reply. (See the letter of December 1933 for an earlier reply to the same question.)

teenager reference
Someone had suggested to her that the poem might be construed as referring to a teenager on a fishing holiday.