All These Roads
The Poetry of Louis Dudek
Paper 80 pp.
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A passionate believer in the power of art—and especially poetry—to influence and critique contemporary culture, Louis Dudek devoted much of his life to shaping the Canadian literary scene through his meditative and experimental poems as well as his work in publishing and teaching. All These Roads: The Poetry of Louis Dudek brings together thirty-five of Dudek’s poems written over the course of his sixty-year career.
Much of Dudek’s poetry is about the practice of art, with comment on the way the craft of poetry is mediated by such factors as university classes, public readings, reviews, commercial presses, and academic conferences. The poems in this selection—witty satires, short lyrics, and long sequences—reflect self-consciously on the relationship between art and life and will draw readers into the dramatic mid-century literary and cultural debates in which Dudek was an important participant.
Karis Shearer’s introduction provides an overview of Dudek’s prolific career as poet, professor, editor, publisher, and critic, and considers the ways in which Dudek’s functional poems help, both formally and thematically, to carry out the tasks associated with those roles. Comparing Dudek’s reception to that of NourbeSe Philip, Marilyn Dumont, and Roy Miki, Frank Davey’s afterword locates Dudek in a pre-1980s version of multiculturalism that is more complex than many critics would have it. According to Davey, Dudek broadened the limits on the possible range and type of poetry for subsequent generations of Canadian writers.
Karis Shearer is currently a doctoral candidate at The University of Western Ontario, where she is completing her dissertation on postmodern cultural workers and the Canadian long poem. She has published articles on women’s writing and the poetry of Lynn Crosbie, and has guest-edited an issue of Open Letter on new Canadian fiction writers.
Louis Dudek was one of Canada’s most important and influential cultural workers. After gaining his PhD from Columbia University, Dudek in 1951 returned from New York to Montreal, the city of his birth, to take up a position as professor of English at McGill. Dudek’s return to Canada marked the beginning of his efforts to revolutionize the Montreal poetry scene through little magazines and small-press publishing, providing alternatives to commercial presses and opportunities for talented young poets. In 1956 he started The McGill Poetry Series, which gave a start to several young poets, including Leonard Cohen. The author of numerous books of poetry, Louis Dudek died in 2001.
Frank Davey has been a poet, editor, small-magazine publisher, literary critic, and cultural critic in Canada since 1961. He is editor and co-founder of the influential poetry newsletter Tish (1961-63) and since 1965 editor of Open Letter, the Canadian journal of writing and theory. With Fred Wah in 1984, he founded SwiftCurrent, the world’s first online literary magazine, and operated it until 1990. His more than forty books include Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster (1980), The Abbotsford Guide to India (1986), Reading Canadian Reading (1988), Canadian Literary Power (1994), and Back to the War (2005).
“The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming.”
— Paul Milton, Canadian Literature
“The cream of an already excellent crop—All These Road: The Poetry of Louis Dudek picks thirty-five poems from the poet’s long and illustrious career as a major literary force in Canada.”
— The Midwest Book Review