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LECfCfERS IN. CANADA: 1964 EDITED BY F. W. WAIT This is the last issue of Letters in Canada under the present editorship. I want to thank the numerous regular contributors who have again met their commitments despite inevitable difficulties, the steadily growing number of books, the increased demands on time, and in at least one instance the strain of ill-health. We are glad that Professor G. M. Craig has been able to take over the local and regional history section, and we extend thanks and regrets to Professor E. C. Blackman who provides in this issue the last of his forceful surveys of religiOUS books. Two books, John Addington Symonds, A Biography, by Mrs. PhylliS Grosskurth, and Essays in English Literature from the Renaissance to the Victorian Age, Presented to A. S. P. Woodhouse, will be reviewed in a later issue. Some readers may not be aware that among the late Professor Woodhouse's inventions was Letters in Canada, which he edited for the first time for the year 1935. Once again the task of collecting and distributing books and preparing material for the printers has been accomplished through the efficient co-operation of the Press's editorial assistants. Mrs. Marion Magee has continued to provide the experience and friendly attention which for five years have helped greatly to make the editor's job a pleasant responsibility , and Miss Margery Pearson in her first year has entered into her work with the same competence and patience. POETRY Milton Wilson Near False Creek Mouth (McClelland & Stewart, not paged, $4.50 cloth, $2.50 paper) is Earle Birney's sixth book, his second in two years. The sixties have been a prolific time for Birney, and, although he likes to depict himself as bald, pasty-faced and something less than agile ("there is nowhere I need go that quickly"), I can see nothing poetically Volume XXXIV, Number 4, July, 1965 350 LEITERS IN CANADA: 1964 senile about his latest collection. Certainly if I wanted to convince a reader of contemporary poetry that Birney was worth his attention, this is the book I would give him. Not that there's any futile attempt to compete with a new poetic generation on its own terms. But age has opened his sensibilities, extended his range, deepened his patterns, strengthened the authenticity of his voice. Birney is the exception to the Canadian rule that poets don't mature (they just repeat themselves or give up). He remains recognizably the same poet, but both his role as a human being and his functioning as a writer seem more secure than ever before. When I say that he's the same poet, I'm remembering his Canadian landscape and manscape of twenty years ago, a precarious shelf, thrust up at the sun between the Atlantic and Pacific doors of a prehistoric sea, layered with the discontinuous steps of geological and cultural time, haunted by the ghosts of unavailable primitive myth and the visions of unachieved humanity. The long introductory poem ("November near False Creek Mouth") that introduces this latest volume exists on that same shelf. But so do many of the travel poems that follow, like the Peruvian "Macchu Picchu." Birney has always liked to be both a very local and a very global poet. The two-part division of The Strait of Anian (1948) made that clear long ago. In Near False Creek Mouth the identity of home and world is unmistakably built into the patterns of each, and Frank Newfeld's cover drives the point home. But I'm also remembering Birney's war poetry of the forties with its sense of involvement from the western edge of things, its Canadian scapegoats for a war they never made and yet were somehow responsible for: in short, its equivocal relations between (and even identity of) guilt and innocence. In Near False Creek Mouth Birney plays the role of innocent surrogate for the sins of the wide world with charm and comic timing, no less than high seriousness. "Meeting of Strangers," in which, with a ballet leap and a taxi ex machina, he escapes being skewered by "somebody big I redshirted young dark unsmiling" in the Port...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 449-470
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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