Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Northern Romanticism: Poets of the Confederation

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Northern Romanticism: Poets of the Confederation

Article excerpt

Tracy Ware (ed.), A Northern Romanticism: Poets of the Confederation. Canadian Critical Edition (Ottawa: Tecumseh Press, 2000), xvii + 528pp. Cloth. $39.95. ISBN 1-8961-3305-3. Paper. $19.95. ISBN 1-8961-3307-X.

Most Canadians, even if they are not poetry readers, would instinctively cringe at the mention of the 'Maple Leaf School of Poetry' - a designation which evokes dull landscape descriptions and an unfashionable earnestness and sentimentality. A Northern Romanticism gives the lie to such a patronising view of the poets writing in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The generous selections of works by Isabella Crawford, William Wilfred Campbell, Charles G.D. Roberts, Archibald Lampman, Bliss Carman and Duncan Campbell Scott are sufficient evidence to make the case for the complex vision and formal power of their work. Tracy Ware also includes reviews, lectures and essays by some of the poets themselves, and an interesting range of critical approaches to the work. Taken in its entirety, this new anthology strongly suggests these 'Poets of the Confederation' established a distinctive tradition, based on the Romantic aesthetic but bringing a new passion and imaginative insight to the Canadian landscape and to a specifically Canadian outlook.

Such work as Roberts's New York Nocturnes and selections from Carman's Sappho demonstrates effectively that erotic and spiritual concerns permeate their evocation of the environment, be it mythic or contemporary, rural or urban. Indeed, Confederation poetry reinforces Roberts' distinction between descriptive verisimilitude and 'nature in some one of its many relations with humanity'. …

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