Leaving the Shade of the Middle Ground
The Poetry of F.R. Scott
Paper 80 pp.
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Leaving the Shade of the Middle Ground contains thirty-five of F.R. Scott’s poems from across the five decades of his career. Scott’s artistic responses to a litany of social problems, as well as his emphasis on nature and landscapes, remain remarkably relevant. Scott weighed in on many issues important to Canadians today, using different terms, perhaps, but with no less urgency than we feel now: biopolitics, neoliberalism, environmental concerns, genetic modification, freedom of speech, civil rights, human rights, and immigration. Scott is best remembered for “The Canadian Authors Meet,” “W.L.M.K,” and “Laurentian Shield,” but his poetic oeuvre includes significant occasional poems, elegies, found poems, and pointed satires. This selection of poems showcases the politics, the humour, and the beauty of this central modernist figure.
The introduction by Laura Moss and the afterword by George Elliott Clarke provide two distinct approaches to reading Scott’s work: in the contexts of Canadian modernism and of contemporary literary history, respectively.
Laura Moss is an associate professor in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia and the former director of the UBC International Canadian Studies Centre. She is the associate editor of the journal Canadian Literature, co-editor (with Cynthia Sugars) of the two volume Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts (2008, 2009), and the editor of Is Canada Postcolonial? Unsettling Canadian Literature (WLU Press, 2003).
Born in 1899 in Quebec City, Francis Reginald (Frank) Scott was a public poet, an accomplished editor and mentor of a generation of writers, an influential professor of constitutional law, and a founding member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). Emerging as one of the “Montreal Group” of modernist poets of the 1920s, Scott spent the next five decades writing poetry and working to transform both Canadian poetics and politics. With a penchant for satire, Scott’s work is sometimes playful and witty and sometimes gravely concerned with the legacies of political ineptitude and the fragility of both humanity and the environment.
George Elliott Clarke is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. Named a Trudeau Foundation Fellow in 2005, Clarke is a revered poet, librettist, and novelist. For his collection Execution Poems, he received the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 2001. His bestselling poetry-novel, Whylah Falls, is a major text in Canadian literature.
“Scott’s poetry humbly argues for a place on our shelves for a Canadian political poetry that is large enough to avoid the petty debate on specifics, yet particular enough not to lose local force.”
— Andrew Vaisius, Prairie Fire Review of Books
“With Leaving the Shade of the Middle Ground, the Laurier Poetry series certainly seems to have fulfilled its mandate. There is the hope that more readers will encounter F.R. Scott, an artist who gives a poetic voice to political concerns that are evermore relevant, and who, when he’s at his best, writes the kind of poetry you’d like to memorize.”
— Vanessa Bonneau, Montreal Review of Books
“Leaving the Shade of the Middle Ground is a fine pick for any world poetry collection, much recommended.”
— Midwest Bookwatch, The Poetry Shelf
By the same editor
Is Canada Postcolonial?: Unsettling Canadian Literature, Laura Moss, editor
Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke, George Elliott Clarke