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Absence de reIeve, decreteront certains. Mort de la poesie, statueront les autres. Plus prosalquement, la poesie ne s'insere-t-elle pas dans un cycle de splendeurs et de miseres? Et n'etant pas, ces dernieres annees, portee par l'illusion d'un courant unificateur, ne traverse-t-elle pas une periode de stagnation ou de flottement? Drama JOHN H . ASTINGTON Looking back, I see that I described last year as a lean one for published drama; by that standard 1985 must be characterized as a famine, relieved only by new plays from three importantand established playwrights, and by one further anthology representing the national drama from the late 1960s to 1980. No interesting new writers appeared, while one of the most fascinating and inventive dramatic texts of the year is the product of an actors' collective, and employs theatrical imagery which is not primarily literary. While publishers present us with versions of the harvest of Canadian drama from the last twenty years, then, the ground underfoot looks rather dusty. Jerry Wasserman's Modern Canndian Plays (Talonbooks, 412, $18.50 paper) joins two antholOgies reviewed here last year. It is without a doubt the best of the three, presenting a lively and varied selection of plays, introducing each dramatist well, and providing a comprehensive bibliography , at the end of the volume, of books, articles, and reviews. The Introduction is a model of what such things should be: it is intelligent, lively, and clear, giving a concise account of the growth of drama in Canada, and going on to place contemporary writing in its cultural context, and the plays included in the collection within the whole range of dramatic writing during the period covered. All this is achieved within a remarkable fourteen pages. Wasserman's anthology deserves to become widely used as a textbook, and can be confidently recommended to anyone wishing to be informed about Canadian dramatic writing. Ifit has any weakness, it is that to which any collection is heir, in that the selected plays don't include all one's personal choices. To my taste, there is rather a preponderance of light-weight material, and I find this inappropriate to Wasserman's announced intention 'to present as definitively as possible all the highlights of modern Canadian drama in English' (p 19)' David French, for example, is represented by Jitters, a play which has always seemed to me to be both coarse and thin, rather than by one of the Mercer pieces, and the anthology also includes Balconville, Automatic Pilot, and Billy Bishop Goes to War, in all of which, for different reasons, the dramatic fabric is rather flimsy. The suggestion of the collection is that ambitious DRAMA 61 dramatic writing peters out about 1975, and that since then national taste has had to be satisfied with Nagg's diet. This view of things may not be inaccurate, but it deserves some comment in the introduction more substantial than praise of 'the urbane style that reflected a new national sophistication,' a phrase which is attached to Jitters, save the mark, and which rather forgets Robertson Davies. The collection's virtues, to return to a positive note, are those of representing a range of dramatic styles, which certainly does reflect the eclecticism of modern Canadian writing. The usefulness of the three anthologies as teaching texts has been furthered by a special issue of Canadian Drama (11:1, 1985, $6.00), edited by Professor L.W. Conolly of the University of Guelph. Selections from reviews, interviews, and criticism are gathered together to cover the thirty-one plays represented in the three collections, arranged in order of the date of their first production. It is a very useful companion volume, and it does not Simply read as an essay crib. The editor's claim for the issue, 'to encourage and facilitate the process of criticism of Canadian drama,' is a serious one; as he points out, slack and silly writing is a curse which is not confined to newspaper reviewers. In a dry season, a collection of plays by Margaret Hollingsworth is a particularly welcome arrival; the appearance of Willful Acts, an attractive and well-designed volume from the Coach House Press...


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