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HUMANITIES 173 tion.' He too offers a corrective: look not for 'an essential brutality in Lane's vision: but rather for a 'desire to nurture love where it survives.' Woodcock's introductions sometimes suggest aforbearing schoolmaster in front of a difficult class. This essay is an admirable model from the teacher for the volumes to come. (F.W. WATT) Bruce Whiteman, editor. A Literary Friendship: The Correspondence of Rnlph Gustafson and W.W.E. Ross ECW Press 1984. No pagination. $8.95 paper Collected here are sixty-four letters exchanged between the poets Ralph Gustafson and W.W.E. Ross, the earliest in November "940, the latest in June 1964. Their portraits are on the back of the book: the youthful Gustafson observed by Karsh as a latter-day Rupert Brooke, and Ross like a downtown businessman, standing hands in pockets on a shaded Sunday lawn. The pictures are delusive: Gustafson in New York was a diligent anthologist of the poetry of the country he had (like Bliss Carman) to leave in order to work. Ross in Toronto endured an inner exile, living his days by science, writing sparely and sparingly, and hardly daring to anthologize even his own poems; his first book (1930) was called Laconics, for good reason. The letter-writers do not meet until the summer of "955, and it takes another year before they move from the formality of 'Mr. Gustafson' and 'Mr. Ross' to 'Dear Ralph: 'Dear Eustace.' Early on they are preoccupied with business; Gustafson's unerring taste recognizes Ross's quality, and he wants some of his poems for his Penguin anthology of "942; the little-read Ross at this invitation stirs like a dormant creature in the 'Toronto intellectual darkness' but confines his response to dates and places of publication. As the decades pass there are poems eagerly exclJanged, and some penetrating analyses of those of their friends, as well as a running account of the Layton/Smith imbroglio of 1956/7. There is a sense of changing conditions: 'What a ferment in Canada!' writes Gustafson in 1957, but adds, ' ... does anyone read Canadian poetry - I mean among the Rotarians and on the golf course?' And there is an outrageous and brilliant exchange of parodic verse before that final phase in which Ross was to sit waiting patiently for the renewal of his 'edge' in the matter of poetry. The exchange produced (among domestic gems) Ross's priceless epigram on Frost: In admiration I am lost Seeing the skill of Robert Frost. Fence-essence, the way he hits on it! What's more, the way he sits on it! and another on Empson: Mainly, the trouble was we couldn't stay. Likewise, we found we couldn't get away. In fact, it seemed to be ·about this wayWe couldn't go, and yet we couldn't stay. It also results in his verse 'Remarks' of 1957, a credo (poetic and otherwise) of nearly unparalleled reserve and clarity. Though Gustafson started the episode with his 'Rude Ruminations' on Carman and others, what sticks in the mind from his contribution is his forthright recognition that the nearly unknown Ross constituted an important link in Canadian letters. What the two share beyond their condition of exile is their absorption in craft. Through their letters runs a dialogue documenting a quartercentury 's concern with the disciplines of form, language, and music in poetry. Ross explains the genesis of his'northern' poems to Gustafson, and comments on Gustafson's 'Epithalamion in Time of War.' Gustafson in turn explains his principles as an anthologist, and when he insists with exquisite care on knowing the precise placing of word, accent, or comma in some poem by Ross he is, as usual, anthologizing. Early on they debate the merits of Patrick Anderson, whom Ross with his impartial culture groups with the French fanlaisisles: 'One might be inclined to call him somewhat "surrealistic" because of a certain verbal elasticity, but I find in him no trace of the search through the subconscious that marks surrealism or did in its strongest phase.' Responds Gustafson, 'Anderson has a great deal behind his bewildering proflicacy [sic] - acute observation and manipulation of language to communicateit...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 173-179
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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