CANADIAN WRITERS AND THEIR WORKS: POETRY SERIES, VOL. EIGHT
Toronto, ECW Press, 1993. 428pp, cloth, $45.00, ISBN 1-55022-063-2. CIP
Toronto, ECW Press, 1993.412pp, cloth, $45.00, ISBN 1-55022-069-1. CIP
Volume 21 Number 6
With the publication of these two volumes, ECW Press tips an avalanche of contemporary poets upon us. It is scarcely necessary to do more than list the contents to indicate the richness of the spill: in volume eight are bissett, Bowering, Marlatt, bp Nichol and Ondaatje (the range of spelling suggesting the idiosyncratic variety we do in fact find); in volume ten we have Cohen, Kroetsch, Mandel, Newlove and Rosenblatt-again poets of substance and also of singular diversity.
This excellent series obliges its scholars to introduce the critical discussion of each poet with a biography. Some theorists might judge this approach archaic, but future historians of Canadian literature will be mightily pleased and, for the present student, a useful point of entry into the works can be found in each of the biographical outlines.
The self-dramatizing of Leonard Cohen, for instance, needs to be understood as a sign of the pull of pop culture as well as a mark of the literary tradition of dark romanticism to which his satiric and melancholy lyrics are traditionally assigned. Ondaatje's strenuous heroicising of outsider figures seems to be fed from his own "international," that is to say, unplaced, sense of himself. Joe Rosenblatt may now have ceased to be political and become a nature poet, but his new subjects, though fish, are the cannibalistic fish of the economic system.
Throughout, the level of critical discussion is exceptionally high and the notes, bibliographies and indexes are full and professional. This series continues to provide good value for students of Canadian literature and their teachers.
Alan Thomas teaches literature at Scarborough College, University of Toronto, in Toronto, Ontario
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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