International European movement inspired by the effects of World War I
Breakdown of traditional society under the pressures of modernity: modernity as an experience of loss (T.S. Eliots The Waste Land)
The previous sustaining structures of human life had been either destroyed or shown up as falsehoods or fantasies. Since art incorporated such a false order, it had to be renovated
Quest for coherence
Myths as human constructions to create order our of meaningless flux: Christianity as such a myth
Literature, especially poetry, becomes vitally important for society: its the place where the search for meaning is carried out
Its construction out of fragments
Notable for what it omits
Shifts in perspective, voice and tone
Understated, ironic rhetoric
Suggestive rather than assertive by means of symbols and imagery
Reading experience: challenging and difficult. The reader has to dig the structure out
The search for meaning becomes meaningful in itself
Use of all sorts of language, including the speech of the uneducated and the inarticulate, the colloquial, slangy, and the popular. The traditional educated literary voice, conveying truth and culture, lost its authority.
Directness, compression, and vividness: Poems became shorter. The principles of unity and organization were no longer available. Novels became shorter and the short story acquires a new significance.
Subjective point of view (often that of a naive or marginal person) to convey the reality of confusion rather than the myth of certainty.
The subject matter often became the poem or the literary work itself
Concrete sensory image or detail as the direct conveyer of experience
Allusion to literary, historical, philosophical, or religious details of the past, reminding readers of the old. Lost coherence
Authors private life experience:
Vignettes of contemporary life
Chunks of popular culture
The work may move across time and space, shift from the public to the personal and include material previously deemed unliterary.
Truth does not exist objectively but is the product of a personal interaction with reality
CANADIAN MODERNIST MOVEMENT
Until the 1930s Canada saw little of the artistic challenge and achievement of the modernist movement.
However: during the 1920s W.W.E. Ross and Raymond Knister were conducting private experiments in poetic diction and rhythm
E.J. Pratt initiated the movement with the publication of Newfoundland Verse (1923)
Montreal: McGill movement
A. M. Klein
Born in Newfoundland
Son of a Methodist minister
Went to Toronto to study arts, philosophy, psychology, and theology.
He was ordained, but instead of entering the ministry he became a university teacher of English.
Spans both the 19th and 20th centuries and the extremes of primitive-rural and sophisticated-urban living.
He dominates Canadian poetry in the first half of the 20th century.
Transitional figure: Link between the Confederation poets and the modernist principles, bridging the gap between the traditional and the contemporary. However, he does not belong to any school or movement.
Northrop Frye considered him the epic bard of Canada, transforming the history and scientific knowledge of a culture into a heroic and mythic whole
More concerned with evolution than with revolution.
Expanded the romantic limits of natural description, peopling his Newfoundland Verse (1923) with the sounds, characters and animals of the Newfoundland coast.
Unlike his contemporaries, he worked in longer poetic forms:
Series of long narrative poems that chart the worlds tragedies (The Titanic, 1935; Dunkirk (1941)
two national epics (Brιbeuf and his Brethen, 1940; Towards the Last Spike, 1952)
poems about conflict and heroic action: between man and man, animal and animal, man and natural forces...: force and energy.
Fascination with detail, both scientific and verbal
He celebrates the individual hero (strong, determined, and with a vision), but in a social context.
Dominated words--verbal precision: cannot be read without a dictionary close at hand
Use of Canadian subject-matter: Canadas mythologizer
The Titanic (1935):
Extracts of dramatic dialogue
Individuals as part of a larger social unit: theres no unifying action around a single hero
Brιbeuf and His Brethren (1940):
It retells the story of the Jesuit missionaries martyred by the Iroquois in 1649.
Towards the Last Spike (1952):
About the building of the transcontinental railway:
Unification of the nation
Concentration on technological development and on communications
Man versus nature / words and rhetoric as weapons in Parliament
Similes and metaphors drawn from grammar and speech
A.J.M. Smith (1902-1980)
As a student, involved with writing and editing poetry at McGill:
founded and ran the Literary Supplement of the McGill Daily and then the McGill Fortnightly Review.
In the 1930s Smith worked with Frank (F.R.) Scott on New Provinces, a collection of poems by himself, Scott, Leo Kennedy, A.M. Klein, E.J. Pratt and Robert Finch.
Smiths first anthology of Canadian poetry, The Book of Canadian Poetry, was published in 1943. This volume was what gave Canadians the first clear sense of themselves, poetically:
"All prior anthologies of Canadian poetry werent critical. They were perhaps patriotic or sentimental - all were published at a popular level. This was the first critical intelligence in Canadian poetry that said there were poems of value out there. He used standards of excellence in selecting the poems"
Did not want Canadian poets to imitate Eliot and the moderns but to attain an equivalent standard and importance
Respect for poetic craftmanship: Emphasis on art and artifice (allusions to other writers, focus on the making of poetry as well as on its content)
Fusion of thought and feeling
Protested against puritanism, provincialism and colonialism
Idiom of past centuries
Assumes a cultivated audience well versed in the history and achievements of Western culture
F.R. Scott (1899-1985)
Complementary opposite to Smith
Campainer for a moderate and orderly socialism
Public poetry (no ivory tower)
- Satirical commentary on current affairs
- Introspective poetry (promises to wear better than the former)
He sees beyond the superficialities of natural landscape and human behavior to larger patterns: visionary (words like see, Sight, vision are central to his work
Dorothy Livesay (1909-1996)
Dorothy Livesay was born in Winnipeg, Manitoa.
A teacher, she worked in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) from 1959 to 1963. She then taught as a writer-in-residence at a number of universities.
Besides being a professor, she also worked as a journalist, and editor.
The B.C. book prize for poetry is named in her honour.
She won the Governor General's Literary Award in the poetry category in 1944 for Day And Night, and again in 1947 for Poems for People.
Characteristics of her work
Unifying center: Blend of intensely private experience and energetic responses to external events. Untouched by the modernist craving for impersonality:
I live in what I feel and hear
Her first book, Green Pitcher (1928):
Persistent use of refrain
Rhetorical and syntactical repetitions taking the place of rhyme and regular metre: influenced by the conventions of ballad and song
During the Depression she became engaged in social work and left-wing politics: political verse, propagandistic in subject and too strident in tone
1930s: series of short poems combined into a larger unity: documentaries based on topical data but held together by descriptive, lyrical, and didactic elements
After the 1930s: her active political commitment lessened (wife and mother); stronger rapport between reader and poet
1960s: after her husbands death her poems become poignantly direct and nakedly confessional (=D.H. Lawrences sexual tenderness)
Independent and honest
Ψ E.J. Pratt, narrative poet par excellence; first of the moderns or last of the Victorians.
Ψ Montreal: F.R.Scott, A.M. Klein, A.J.M. Smith
1930s: Depression Difficult to publish;
Ψ Dorothy Livesay
1940s: Many poets who wrote in the 1930s got published in the 1940s: Proliferation of poets but not of readers: poet as lonely voice with no hearer
Ψ Dudek and Raymond Souster championed poetry creating magazines and little presses, compiling anthologies, etc. (like Scott and Smith 20 years earlier). However, they saw the early modernist as too European: need to express a distinctive North American consciousness--U.S. as model.
Ψ Irving Layton joins them in the creation of Contact Press
human responses and traditional humanistic values in an age of political trauma
poetic craft and texture, stylistic polish, intellectual vigour
A.M. Klein, Biography(1909-1972)
1909: born to Kalman and Yetta Klein, orthodox Jews, in Ratno, a small town in the Ukraine, and brought to Montreal with his family probably the following year (officially claimed to have been born in Montreal, 14 February 1909).
1926: attended McGill University, majoring in classics and political science and economics. Associated with 'Montreal Group' of poets and writers, including A.J.M. Smith, F.R. Scott, Leo Kennedy, and Leon Edel.
1940: first volume of poems, Hath Not a Jew ..., published by Behrman's in New York.
1942: associated with the Preview group of poets--F.R. Scott, Patrick Anderson, P.K. Page, and others--and with the First Statement group, in particular Irving Layton.
1944: The Hitleriad published by New Directions in New York.
1948: The Rocking Chair and Other Poems published by Ryerson in Toronto.
1949: Awarded the Governor-General's Medal for The Rocking Chair. Journeyed to Israel, Europe, and North Africa in July and August, sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress, and published his 'Notebook of a Journey' in the Canadian Jewish Chronicle.
travelled widely in Canada and the United States, addressing Jewish audiences, principally concerning the State of Israel.
1951: The Second Scroll published by Knopf in New York.
1952: increasing signs of mental illness. Hospitalized for several weeks in the summer of 1954 after a thwarted suicide attempt.
Only peripherally associated with the McGill Movement
Independent, solitary man
Jewish poet, supporter of Zioninst causes
Concerned with the possibility that North American Jews might lose both their language and their heritage through assimmilation
Interpreter of Jewish experience both to his own people and to others
Characteristics of his poetry:
Archaisms, recreations of earlier styles
Allusions to the classic English poets
Punster: combination of seriousness and humor
Romanticism (Byron, Keats)
King James version of the Old Testament
Hebrew Psalms and the Song of Songs
Joyce (Ulysses became his secular Talmud)
Traditionalist: he needed the rhythms of poetic convention: no verse could be free
Not influenced by previous Canadian poets
Ψ born in England on November 23, 1916, and came to Canada in 1919.
Ψ Educated in England, Calgary, and Winnipeg, and studied art in Brazil and New York.
Ψ A woman whose work spans six decades, P.K. Page has published more than 20 books in the genres of poetry, fiction, memoir, childrens literature and translation.
Ψ She is also a visual artist, under the name of P.K. Irwin, and has produced an impressive body of work that is represented in many major Canadian galleries.
Ψ As scriptwriter for the National Film Board, her script for the animated film, Teeth Are To Keep, won an award at Cannes.
Ψ Found her voice in the company of the Montreal group (A.M. Klein, F.R. Scott)
Ψ More subtle version of the didactic and often declamatory style
Ψ Fusion of social observation and romantic love, at once political and intensely erotic
As Ten, as Twenty
For we can live now, love:
Millions in us breathe,
moving as we would move
and qualifying death
Ψ Monosyllabics: heartbeat accelerated by passion; long vowels: exhalations of breath
Ψ Rhetoric echoes of the biblical book of Acts, Shakespeare, and C. Day Lewis
Ψ Later: Turn from what we perceive to how we perceive it
Earle Birney (1904-1985)
Earle Birney was born in 1904 in Calgary when it was still in the Northwest Territories.
His family moved to Vancouver, where he went to U. B. C. in 1922, enrolling in science.
In 1926 he went to Toronto to go to graduate school. When he left the following year, he had a master's degree and had become a Marxist Leninist
In the following years he lived and worked in San Francisco, Utah, London... He went to Norway to meet with Trotsky and to Berlin where he was arrested by the Gestapo for failing to salute a Nazi parade. In 1936 he came back to Canada and finished his PhD at the University of Toronto. He brought with him Esther Bull, a fellow Marxist whom he would later marry. Their son Bill was born in 1941.
In 1965, Earle left the University of British Columbia and became the first Writer in Residence at the University of Toronto.
Due to the great variety (tone, subject, treatment, quality) of his poetry, its difficult to classify
Extremes: from the stoic pessimist persona anticipating the imminent destruction of humankind to the irripressible buffoon, playful, punning, ebullient
Emphasis on the poem rather than on the poet
He spans the time between Pratt and the younger experimentalists of the 1960s
The first poet to embody the western experience in his verse (David is a classic of the Rockies)
Ψ Irving LaytonVigour of imagery, sexuality unprecedented in Canadian poetry: reputation for controversy; he attacks English professors, critics, reviewers,and fellow poets for elitism, and the general public for their insensitivity and lack of concern for matters of art and intellectgeneralized contempt for humankind
The poet has a public function as a prophet
He sees the universe as
An indifferent sea in which we swim or drown
Active hostile, a consumer of life
Ψ Toronto: The mythopoeic poets
Influenced by Fryes belief in a mythic structure of the imagination: universal patters of imagery and modes of symbolic thought which serve as creative release
Others: Leonard Cohen, Anne Wilkinson, Eli Mandel
1960s: Cultural Renaissance --Nationalism
Poetry became the predominant literary form
West Coast: Tish poets
Teacher: Warren Tallman
They tried to strip poetry of conventional rhetoric and to get down to the real image
acknowledged the influence of William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Robert Creely and Charles Olson, especially the latter's theory of projective verse.
Bp Nichol, Joe Rosenblatt, David McFadden, Victor Coleman
Born in Wooler, Ontario.
One of a group of important Canadian poets (Milton Acorn, Alden Nowlan, Patrick Lane are others) who have little formal education & whose roots are in Canada's working-class culture.
He worked in factories until 1955.
As a teenager, he rode the freights west for three years and spent six years in the RCAF.
He has written plays (radio) for the CBC, and has travelled to many world countries.
He has earned a living by writing since about 1962-63.