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Pitt, David G.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1984. 415pp, paper, ISBN 0-8020-5660-1 (cloth) $24.95, 0-8020-6563-5 (paper) $14.95. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Volume 13 Number 2
1985 March

This volume of full-dress biography covers Pratt's first forty-five years; a second volume is promised, which will deal with the later period during which he produced the long narrative poems known to many high-school students.

For a poet, Pratt began writing unusually late and was forty before the book containing his first work of any note, Newfoundland Verse, appeared in 1923. Pratt's long-delayed discovery of his metier is explained here by a man of similar background. David Pitt is the son of a Newfoundland Methodist minister, as was Pratt, and has also gone on to become an English professor. This background allows him to explore authoritatively the life of Pratt and indicate the causes, cultural, psychological and economic, for the poet's late discovery of himself. In tracing the journey from the Newfoundland outports, where Pratt taught in a one-room school, to Pratt's haven at Victoria College, University of Toronto, Pitt provides interesting historical side-glances at Newfoundland society at the turn of the century, and at Toronto's literary set in the Twenties.

The writing here is solid and vigorous. Critical discussion of the poetry is reined back and restricted, in the main, to general description or subordinated to publishing history. Pratt's interest in Hardy emerges, however, and there are anticipatory glimpses of the great work to come, in excerpted passages from such early poems as "The Sea-Cathedral" and "The Great Feud." In its several ways, this book proves itself necessary to an understanding of the strongest Canadian poet of modern times.

Alan Thomas, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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