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Clément Moisan.

Victoria, Press Porcépic, c1983.
219pp, cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-88878-078-8.

Reviewed by Alan Thomas.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

This discussion of modern French and English Canadian poetry was first published in French by Editions Hurtubise in 1979. The author defines the poetry of the two cultures in separatist terms as of "Quebec" and of "Canada." Despite this partisan terminology, the whole thrust of Professor Moisan's work emphasizes the common experiences and perceptions that lie behind the poetry of the two official languages and the "frontiers" of the title are described in the preface as meeting-places.

The approach is broadly comparative and also historical and panoramic. One of the best sections describes the ideas and activities of the group of Quebec poets associated with the magazine Parti Pris, evidently familiar ground for Professor Moisan. His reach is also impressively wide for he deals with eleven pairs of major poets (on the English side including Earle Birney, Irving Layton, and Margaret Atwood, on the French, H. de Saint -Denys-Garneau, Anne Hebert, and Nicole Brossard). Besides the chosen twenty-two, many other poets are referred to; the reach, energy, and stimulation of the comparisons is the work's best feature. Inevitably, the effort to encompass works in two literary traditions leads to some shortcuts of generalization.

A further, and more serious weakness arises from the editorial decision to translate all the Quebec poetry and give it in English only (apart from random phrases). Accessibility for all English-speakers may thereby be gained; it is at the cost of individualizing vigour and sharpness in the poetry and of cogency in the critical commentary. Flawed as the book is by the absence of the original poems in French, its perspective is nonetheless unique; it should be acquired by all English-speaking institutions where Canadian literature of the modern period is taught.

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