restricted access The Sound of Canadian Modernisms: The Sir George Williams University Poetry Series, 1966-74

Between 1966 and 1974, faculty members of Sir George Williams University in Montreal hosted the Poetry Series—a program of poetry readings that was conceived as an ongoing encounter between local poets and a diverse range of writers from across the United States and Canada. Through analysis of sound recordings that document the Poetry Series, this essay demonstrates how these poetry events enabled anglophone Montreal poets to encounter and engage with contemporary national and international poetic philosophies and practices. The Poetry Series is interpreted in terms of efforts to define a national Canadian literature in relation to American poetics, as a platform for the performance of contending definitions of modern and avant-garde poetic practice, and as a site for developing models of artistic community. The poets whose recorded readings are analyzed include Al Purdy, Robert Creeley, Irving Layton, Jackson Mac Low, and George Bowering. In a broader sense, the essay works to read a coherent archive of documentary poetry recordings as an archeological trace of the cultural significance of the poetry reading series in the 1960s and 1970s and to consider the methodologies most useful for engaging critically with an historical audio record of a series of cultural events.