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Edited by Robert Lecker, Jack David and Ellen Quigley
Toronto, ECW Press, 1990.316pp, cloth, $45.00
ISBN 0-920802-88-5. CIP


Reviewed by Alan Thomas.

Volume 20 Number 2
1992 March

Five important poets of the period of the flowering of Canadian literature in the 1960s - Milton Acorn, Al Purdy, Alden Nowlan, James Reaney and Phyllis Webb - are the subject of this volume. The first three are leading voices in the populist tradition of the ordinary man made articulate. Such a tradition can create problems for critics seeking to disentangle the poet from his political programme or regional atti­tude, and here Milton Acorn creates much difficulty. The critic and poet Ed Jewinski insists that Acorn should be read whole, political crust and all, while the general editor, George Woodcock, argues that Acorn's undoubted graces as a lyric poet should be recognized and his political "ranting" discarded.

In the case of Nowlan, Michael Oliver argues that his subject should be read as a Maritimer, while Woodcock holds that Nowlan is open to universal meaning. There is no quarrel over Purdy, who now, in his seventies, with age and general acclaim, seems likely to become Canada's grand old man of literature- except that he appears to have the secret of literary youth and remains fresh and contemporary in his output. Reaney is examined closely and intelligently by Richard Stingle as a writer made by academe and yet drawn into bold dramatic experiments, and Phyllis Webb, the "poet's poet," as Woodcock calls her, receives careful, admiring treatment from John Hulcoop, who has written elsewhere about this woman, who is among the best of living poets in this country yet is little cel­ebrated:

This volume is peculiarly rich in biographical discussion of the poets and so, to my mind, is a book for general reading as well as being necessary, as is the whole CWTW set, to any library serious about its holdings of Canadian literature.

Alan Thomas, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont.
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