Poetry

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The Poetic Imperative

The Poetic Imperative

A Speculative Aesthetics
edition:Hardcover
tagged : poetry
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Constructive Negativity

Constructive Negativity

Prize Culture, Evaluations, and Disability in Canadian Poetry
edition:Paperback
tagged : poetry, canadian
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Canon Confessions"Canon," as a concept, gets a bad rap in CanLit these days. The reasons for this are many, though the fallout from literary nationalism and a backlash against attempts at promoting diversity are chief amongst them. And yet the supposedly irrelevant canon is being systematically (and enthusiastically) replaced by something worse: the devil known as Prize Culture (PC). This phenomena obscures its vile power by inveigling smart young minds to discount the concept of canon whilst simultaneously doing everything they can to become a part of it. But before I unpack this idea and trace its history, I have a confession to make: I believe in the canon. Shall I make of this a Nicene Creed? Between the sheets, let me say my prayers: I believe in the one canon, the Canon Almighty, Maker of minor and major, and of all writers resentful and ungrateful . . .I'm exaggerating: I don't believe in "one" canon. I believe, rather, in canons, or what have been termed "countercanons" - niche canons based on geography, ethnicity, genre, and subject. As well as my favourite, the "personal canon" (aka a list of my favourite books). Until recently, I thought everyone professed the Nicene Creed. And why not profess? Those of us who are descendants of the British Mother Culture, that dictator of what constitutes "minor" and "major" in colonial Canada, have been conditioned to believe. For a very long time, the nation tasked our institutions with the business of canon-making. Much of this was done by the publishing industry through the production of anthologies to be taught in universities. The controversy around who's in and who's out is the cannon-fodder of the canon wars, and it happens with every anthology. It was partly the lack of a national literature, and thus of a canon, that spurred the Massey Report . The problem is we may have overcompensated. The twentieth century produced an impressive number of Canadian literary anthologies (at least two hundred). This is a vast output, especially given that we didn't seriously fire up our engines until the 1960s. Today, the English Academy even has a minor field called "canon studies." Its dean is Robert Lecker, who has published a couple of fantastic scholarly books documenting the development of Canada's English-language canon.To push back against the Big Ugly Static Canon (a white, Western heteronormative canon that, in the case of poetry, includes Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Donne, etc.) the debate shifted, beginning in the eighties, from one around establishing a single, definitive canon to canons, plural. It's now commonplace, in literary circles, to talk about the "Alberta canon" or the "Asian-Canadian canon." This expansion of the canon concept to include not just marginalized writers but also genres and subjects once considered "ungentlemanly" was both necessary and welcome. I don't want to read any more Hugh Garner. EVER. Not when I've got Madeleine Thien. I routinely participate in the business of poetry canonization by focusing my critical practice on writers I believe are neglected by the culture. You could call this practice counter-canonical: when I see what PC valorizes, I also see what it doesn't, so I often sift through the latter to find work that seems unappreciated. I push against the canon and nominate members for entry by leveraging my personal taste as a critic. It rarely accomplishes much, but it's something. In the midst of one of these quixotic quests I learned, however, that the young refuse to acknowledge the value of canon because of its exclusionary history. The baby, in other words, is being thrown out with the bathwater. In the vacuum created by the loss of "great old" books, PC builds a disposable canon while everyone looks the other way. My analysis here is restricted to my area of expertise - Canadian poetry - although I think the deformations extend to fiction and beyond.

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Post-glacial

Post-glacial

The Poetry of Robert Kroetsch
by Robert Kroetsch
afterword by Aritha van Herk
edited by David Eso
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged : canadian, poetry
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A Poet's Journey

A Poet's Journey

on poetry and what it means to be a poet
edition:Paperback
tagged : poetry
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Nothing that Is, The

Nothing that Is, The

Essays on Art, Literature and Being
edition:Paperback
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Margin of Interest

Margin of Interest

Essays on English Language Poetry of the Maritimes
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian, poetry
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Excerpt

From "Maritime Poetry: A Unifying Field Theory"

One of the great temptations of any book of criticism is to generate a thesis which can be tested throughout its length. The point of publication, for some, is to devise a new idea which adds to the body of knowledge about a person, place, or thing. It's tempting to try to fashion descriptive and analytic tools. Since this book is about my people (Maritimers), my place (the Maritimes), and the most valued thing outside of my family (poetry), I was sorely tempted to reinvent the wheel.

I've rejected developing a novel thesis about Maritime poetry. I don't believe the idea of a single theoretical model which can incorporate the region's writers and writings. In 2006, Marta Dvorak and Coral Ann Howells wrote in their introduction to the special issue of Canadian Literature devoted to east coast writing that there is a 'richness of social and cultural histories, such a multiplicity of voices speaking from so many different angles and in such a variety of literary modes that what is produced amounts to far more than a mapping of region.' Instead, 'any definition of regional specificity' is both comprehended but also exceeded.'

Universalizing ideas only cause trouble, anyway. I'm not able to offer a unifying theory because I lack the intrinsic understanding of French-Canadian/Acadian and Indigenous identities and histories, and these literatures are far older than relatively recent English ones. Moreover, one could argue that other identity shards should be added to my (ironically) centrist history-the history of women writers in the Maritimes, the history of LGTBQ2S+ writers in the Maritimes, the history of Africadian writers in the Maritimes. By now you must realize that any theory I might offer an audience is already suspiciously narrow, but if it did include all the aforementioned categories, it would be uselessly broad. Besides, any claim for the primacy of a single idea is inherently suspicious. Such an idea would suspiciously become 'the centre'-a centre ridden with exceptions, as is the rule in any critical framework with specificity. I would soon want to write a book about the exceptions that disproved my idea, trying to make my own idea marginal. As Wolfgang Hochbruck writes in his introduction to Down East: Critical Essays on Contemporary Maritime Canadian Literature, '[N]o one perspective will ever suffice to explain everything' and 'summarizing and centreing statements will always be made at the expense of margins, fringes, and diversity.' I might even get bored with the Unifying Theory since it seemed so Unifying. Finally, we're talking about a region that has been told to Unify For The Sake of Survival for several decades now, and take it from me, contemporary Maritimers don't like that kind of talk. If you're disappointed, though, reassure yourself that the centrist homogenizing edicts are reflected in your disappointment. This place is too various and diverse to conform to your expectation.

[Continued in Margin of Interest...]

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