UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Alan Crawley, contemporary verse and the development of modern poetry in the forties McCullagh, Leota Joan


The development of modern poetry in Canada is presented by the critics in essentially a straight line progression beginning with the Montreal Group in the twenties and culminating in the 'Renaissance' of the forties which was fostered largely by the Montreal little magazines Preview and First Statement. This presentation is distorted in several ways. It suggests that modernism was established in Canada in the twenties and gives a disproportionate amount of credit and influence to the Montreal Group; it neglects the confused and uncertain period of the thirties; and it almost entirely ignores the important contribution made to the establishment and development of modernism in Canada by Alan Crawley and his west coast magazine Contemporary Verse. The work of the Montreal Group was extremely important to the development of modern poetry in Canada. It was through their efforts that the influences of Yeats and Eliot were introduced to Canada, and these influences provided an exhilarating antidote to the excesses of the nineteenth-century genteel romanticism that dominated Canadian poetry at the time. But it is a mistake to think that the ideas and techniques of the .Montreal Group became current in the twenties or the thirties. A review of poetry published before the forties indicates indisputably that nineteenth-century styles and attitudes were dominant and that modernism came in a very weak second. The kind of poetry that was fashioned after Eliot and Yeats seemed too intellectual, too abstract to be relevant to a people in the midst of a major social dislocation—the Depression. It was not until the forties under the stimulus and direction of the social realism poetry of Auden and his group that modernism really became established in Canada, Preview was an important part of this development because it made Auden's ideas and techniques current. First Statement helped to temper this new poetry by focusing on its imported, derivative quality. But it was Alan Crawley's Contemporary Verse which began it all in.1941. This thesis will make the contents of Contemporary Verse more accessible and better known by means of an index; and will explore the contribution that Alan Crawley made to the development of modern poetry in Canada by editing, of Contemporary (1941-1952), by criticizing and counselling poets, and by generally fostering an interest in poetry through lectures, radio talks, and poetry reading tours. As much as possible Crawley and his contemporaries will speak for themselves through their letters. Chapter I will lay the ground work by exploring the development of modern poetry in the pre-forties period as it is presented in the literature; Chapter II will discuss the beginning of Contemporary Verse; Chapter III the magazine and Alan Crawley's allied activities during the war years; Chapter IV the post-war years; and Chapter V will offer concluding remarks on the significance of Alan Crawley's work to the development of poetry in the forties.

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