Following the end of the Great Depression of the 1930's, two young Canadian poets, A.J.M. Smith and F.R. Scott helped to inspire a new poetic voice in Montreal. Through the McGill Fortnightly Review and the anthology New Provinces, this new syle of poetry valued intellect over sentimentality. This new style of poetry worked to move away from the earlier Romantic notions of the Canadian landscape, heading towards the more personal individual experience. These poets wrote in the vernacular of the "average person", relating their own personal experiences with the enviroment around them. It was this gathering of poets in Montreal, focusing themselves around McGill University, that began this poetic movement. However, it was their introduction of the "small press" magazine and chapbook that made their poetry known nationally.

Key Figures in Canadian Modern Poetry:

a.j.m._smith_3.jpgA.J.M. Smith: Arthur James Marshall Smith was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1902. He was educated at McGill University and received his B.A. in 1925 and his M.A. in 1926. While attending McGill in 1925 he, along with F.R. Scott founded and edited the The McGill Fortnightly Review. This journal was the first to publish Modern Canadian poetry, as well as, critical opinion in Canada. Among Smith's most distinguished awards were the Governor General's Award in 1943, for "News of the phoenix and other poems", and the Lorne Pierce Medal in 1966. He died on November 21 1980 in East Lansing.

f.r._scott.jpgF.R. Scott: F.R Scott was born on August 1st, 1899 in the Rectory of St. Matthew's Church, Quebec City. He was educated at Bishop's College, Lennoxville, Quebec, and at Oxford University, where he received his B.A. in 1922. After gratuating with a law degree from McGill University, he became involved in the literary scene of Montreal working as an editor for the The McGill Fortnightly Review with fellow poet and friend A.J.M. Smith. Scott is one of the most important catalysts of modern Canadian poetry, this is partly due to the the influence of his own poetry and also due to his association with several literary groups and 'little magazines'. Through his writing, Scott pushed for a new form of poetry that moved away from the nostalgic style of Canadian Romanticim. He died January 31st, 1985.
Lake Shore by F.R. Scott

a.m._klein.jpgA.M. Klein: A.M. Klein was born in a small town in the Ukraine in 1909 and moved to Montreal on the 14th of February of that same year. In 1926 he attended McGill University, majoring in classics and political science and economics. Klein is the founder of the literary magazine The McGilliad, in 1930 and is associated with 'Montreal Group' of poets and writers, including A.J.M. Smith, F.R. Scott and Leo Kennedy. By 1942 he became associated with the literary magazine Preview, which featured the works of such poets as F.R. Scott, Patrick Anderson,and P.K. Page and with the magazine First Statement which featuring such poets as Irving Layton, Al Purdy and Margaret Atwood. A.M. Klein died in his sleep on August 20th 1972.
Heirloom by A.M. Klein

leo_kennedy_1.jpgLeo Kennedy: John Leo Kennedy was born on August 22 1907 in Liverpool, England. In 1912 his family immigrated to Montreal where he grew up in a Catholic Irish community known as Griffintown. In 1926-27 Leo Kennedy helped shape the new Modern Canadiana poetry through his associations with fellow poets A.J.M. Smith, F.R. Scott, A.M. Klein. It was during this time that he contributed poetry, reviews and other fiction to The McGill Fortnightly Review. His literary ideas and style were influenced through his associations with Smith, Scott and Klein. Between the years of 1928 to 1933, Kennedy published poems in several magazines; these included the Queen's Quaterly (both Canadian and American), The Dial, Commonweal, The McGilliad (another version of the Fortnightly group), The Canadian Mercury (Kennedy was the founding member on the editorial board 1928-29), and The Canadian Forum. It was The Canadian Forum that most of Kennedy's poems and stories first saw print. In 1933 he published The Shrouding (poems) which, marked by a fascination with death and symbolic resurrection, came to reflect his style of wit. Between February 1936 and November 1937 he began writing political poetry for a left-wing magazine called New Frontier. Leo Kennedy was living in Montreal until his death in 2000.

raymond_souster.jpgRaymond Souster: Raymond Souster was born in Toronto on the 15th of January, 1921. After graduating from high school in 1939, he followed his father into the banking business. Souster remained there until his retirement in 1985. However, it is his literary acccomplishments that he is remembered for. Souster has known or been involved with most of the important poets in Canada and the United States, since the Second World War. He is also a founding member and the first chairperson of The League of Canadian Poets. His first literary associations began with John Sutherland and their magazine First Statement during the 1940's. In 1952, through his correspondence with poet Louis Dudek, the two collaborated with Irving Layton on the magazine Contact (1952-1954) and later on Contact Press. Souster associated himself with the Canadian poets of the early 1960's (George Bowering, Margaret Atwood) through encouragment and helping getting them published. Raymond Souster's book, The Colour of the Times: The Collected Poems of Raymond Souster won the Governor General's Award for Poetry in English in 1964. He still resides in Toronto.

louis_dudek.jpgLouis Dudek: Louis Dudek was born in Montreal on February 6th 1918. During 1936, Dudek attened McGill University, where he became an associate editor of The McGill Daily. It was through the Daily that Dudek began to publish his poetry. In 1940, Dudek met another young poet, Irving Layton. It was through this friendship that in 1942, Layton introduced him to John Sutherland. During this time, the three of them worked together on the magazine First Statement. Together the these three poets attempted to forge a new tradition in Canadian poetry, pioneering a new style that "articulated experience in plain language":

"In the 40´s, when my generation was just beginning and we felt that modernism was opening up in Canada the poets were filled with anger and indignation toward the limitations and philistine prejudices of this country, but they were also filled with confidence and hope for the coming future of the modernist renewal, "Give us five hundred readers", we used to say, "and we will give you a literature."
("Reflections on Failure". Louis Dudek Papers. NLC.)

In 1951, Dudek began to work on another poetry magazine Contact, edited by another fellow Canadian Modernist, Raymond Souster. Again, in 1956 he embarked in another publishing venture, the McGill Poetry Series, which edited Leonard Cohen´s Let us Compare Mythologies, and in 1956 he founded the magazine Delta, a personal literary magazine that favored experimental poetry. Until his retirement in 1984, Louis Dudek continued to lecture on modern poetry as Greenshields Professor of Englsih at McGill University. Louis Dudek died Thursday March 23rd, 2001.
The Poet In Old Age by Louis Dudek

p.k._page.jpg P.K. Page: Patricia Kathleen Page was born on November 23 1916 in Swanage, Dorset, England, while her father Lionel F. Page was on tour of duty in Britain. Her father had worked his way up the ranks during the First World War to lietenant colonel in command of the Fifthieth Battalion in 1917. When Page was two years old, her family returned home to Red Deer, Alberta. When her father was appointed district commanding officer in Rothesay, New Brunswick, in 1935, Page got a job reading and writing dialogues for a CBC Radio Series. It was during this time that Page began writing and submitting poetry. In 1939 and 1940 the west coast magazine Canadian Poetry Magazine and Saturday Night began to publish Page's poems. In 1941, she moved to Montreal where she did clerical and research work, while living in a boardinghouse. It was during this time that she met Leo Kennedy, F.R. Scott, A.J.M. Smith, A.M. Klein, among others, and began to work on a new journal called Preview. By 1942 Page was getting published in The Canadian Forum and First Statement. 1946 P.K. Page published her first book of poems called As Ten, as Twenty. This lead to her second book, published in 1954, called The Metal and the Flower, which won her the Governor General's Award for Poetry in English. Until her recent death on January 14th 2010, P.K. Page was living in Victoria where she had continued writing poems, children stories, essay's and art criticisms.
Autumn by P.K. Page
P.K. Page official website

irving_layton.jpgIrving Layton: Irving Layton was born to Jewish parents on March 12 1912, in the Romanian town of Tirgul Neamt. As a child he achieved local fame due to his being born naturally circumcised, a sign which orthodox Jews believe is the mark of the Messiah. Layton and his family immigrated to Montreal in 1913, where he lived in the poor neighbourhood of St. Urbain Street, a place later made famous by Mordecai Richler's novels. In 1942, after his meeting with Louis Dudek and John Sutherland, he began working on First Statement. His first book of poems, published by this press in 1945, was called Here and Now. Around 1948, Layton worked with Dudek and Souster to write Cerberus, a compilation of all three poet' work, published by Contact Press; a publication that Layton was and original editor. It was during this publication that Layton saw a new identity for Canadian poetry, with an energy that was moving away from the post World War One Romantic poetry. in 1959 that McClelland & Stewart published Layton's A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won the Governor General's Award. In 1959, McClelland & Stewart published Layton's A Red Carpet for the Sun, which won him the Governor General's Award. It was also during this time that Layton the prestigious Senior Arts Fellowship. The fellowship enabled Irving to travel abroad and write, which he would continue to do for years to come, visiting places such as Italy, Israel, and India. During the early 1980's, Layton was nominated for the Nobel Prize by Italy and Korea. Until his death on January 4th 2006, Layton had been residing in Montreal where he continued to get requests to publislh his poems.

Irving Layton website

dorothy_livesy.jpgDorothy Livesay: Dorothy LIvesay was born in Winnipeg on October 12 1909. Her parents, J.F.B. Livesay and Florence Hamilton Randal, were both writers, having met while working for the Winnipeg Telegram. In 1920, the Livesays moved to Toronto where Dorothy attended Glen Mawr, a private girl's school. In 1927 she attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto. That same year, at the age of nineteen, she published her first volume of poetry called Green Pitcher. In 1929, that same slim volume of poetry won the Jardine Memorial Prize. Dorothy served on the editorial board of New Frontier (1936-36), where she contributed several journals, poems, and stories. In 1944, her book of poems, Day and Night, was published and won the Governor General's Award for Poetry in English. In 1947, another book of poems titled Poems for People won her a second Governor General's Award for Poetry in English. Dorothy Livesay died during a rare snow storm on December 29, 1996 in Victoria.

Al_Purdy.jpgAl Purdy: Alfred Wellington Purdy was born on the 30th of December 1918, near Wooler, Ontario. He moved with his mother to Trenton, where at age sixteen he droped out of Trenton Collegiate Institute to work odd jobs. It was during this time that his first poem was published in the school magazine, Spotlight. By the end of the second World War Al Purdy was publishing his poetry in The Canadiana Forum. By the late 1950's, Purdy moved to Montreal where he met up with Irving Layton. It was through his correspondence with Layton that he met Louis Dudek and in the summer of 1956, Milton Acorn. In 1957, Purdy moved to Ameliasburg, Ontario, in Prince Edward County. It was during this time that his poetry was now being more widely read. At times, Purdy would also help Dudek with his journal, Delta, and with Acorn he started a little magazine called Moment. Again, in 1962 he again worked with Dudek on Contact Press. In 1965, McClelland and Stewart published The Cariboo Horses, which won him his first Governor General's award for Poetry in 1966. His second Governor General's award for Collected Poems in 1986. Purdy was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1982 and to the Order of Ontario in 1987. Al Purdy died in North Saanich, B.C., on April 21, 2000.
Listening To Myself by Al Purdy
The Dead Poet by Al Purdy

earle_birney.jpgEarl Birney: Earle Birney was born on Friday, May 13, 1904 in Calgary when it was still considered part of the Northwest Territories. Birney grew up as an only child and spent what he called a "solitary and Wordsworthian childhood" on a subsistence farm near Ponoka, Alberta, learning to read from the Bible, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and the poems of Robbie Burns. In 1922 Birney began his studies at the University of British Columbia, initially enrolled in enginerring, he eventually switched to an honours in English in his third year, where he became editor-in-chief of The Ubyssey. During the years of 1934-45, Birney studied at the University of London on a Royal Society of Canada Fellowship. In 1936 he received his doctorate from the University of Toronto where he also became literaryeditor of The Canadian Forum, a post that he retained until 1940. When Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Birney joined the Canadian army. He was prevented by a medical category to enter into active service and instead became a Selection of Personnel Officer. It was during this time that Earle Birney wrote some of his most famous poems, such as "David", "Dusk on English Bay," "Vancouver Lights". After David appeared in The Canadian Forum, Ryerson agreed to bring out his first collection of poems titled David and Other Poems. The book was widely praised and in 1942 won the Governor General's Award for Poetry in English. In 1945, Earle Birney received his second Governor General's Award for Poetry with his book Now Is Time. In 1965, Birney left the University of British Columbia and became the first Writer in Residence at the University of Toronto. The years from 1965 to his death in 1995 Earle Birney produced many new books, among them RAG & BONE SHOP, THE BEAR ON THE DELHI ROAD, GHOST IN THE WHEELS and LAST MAKINGS, his last book, published after a heart attack in 1987 that left him with a disabling brain injury.
Vancouver Lights by Earle Birney
The Bear on the Delhi Road by Earle Birney

milton_acorn.jpgMilton Acorn: Milton James Rhode Acorn was born on March 30, 1923 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. His father was a ship's carpenter and his mother, a homemaker. Milton was born to a working-class family and this working-class background became the influence towards his writing. As a young man, Milton Acorn only achieve an eighth grade education. During the Second World War, he signed up far too young and was wounded on the ship that was taking him to Europe. Acorn returned to Prince Edward Island, where he became an apprentice as a carpenter. In 1956, he moved to Montreal where he became active in politics and published his early poems in a political magazine called New Frontiers. Milton Acorn also at this time met a number of poets who influenced his writing, one poet in particular was Al Purdy. The Montreal period of Acorn's career is important because it was hese poets who convinced him to give up his trade as a carpenter and focus on his poetry. Milton Acorn and Al Purdy coedited and published a small magazine called Moment. The central themes to this magazine that Milton Acorn published in two of his essays about the central principles of the new poetry emerging from these new Montreal writers. While editing Moment, Acorn produced two books of poetry: Against a League of Liars and The Brains Target. In 1960, he moved to Toronto where he attended the Contact Poetry Series and married the young Gwendolyn MacEwen. The marriage only lasted a few months and Acorn moved to Robin Lake to live with Al Purdy and his wiife Eurithe. In 1969 Acorn released his first successful book of poems, a book short listed for a Governor General's Award for Poetry in English, called I've Tasted My Blood:Poems 1956-1968. In 1975 Milton published This Island Means Minago, a single collection of poems focused exclusively on his native province. This was his first book to win the Govenor General's Award for Poetry in English. However, at age sixty-three, on August 20th 1986, Miltion Acorn died of heart disease and diabetes in his hometown of Charlottetown.
The Island by Milton Acorn
Live With Me On Earth Under the Invisible Daylight Moon by Milton Acorn

The Small Press Magazine and the advent of the Chapbook in Canadian Poetry:

Canadian poet Bliss Carmen was a major writer in the mid 1800's who popularized the Chapbook, which became a source of great inspiration to the Modernist Poets. These Modernist Poets understood the implications of the Chapbook and saw it as a means of supporting themselves by self-publishing. The Chapbook can be defined as a small self-published poetic magazine/journal writted, edited and produced in small quantities and distributed. It was through the popularity of the Chapbook that inspired A.J.M. Smith, F.R. Scott, Raymond Souster, Louis Dudek and others to create their own "small press" magazines.

Bellow are two links of articles that explain how a starting poet can self-publish their own works:

Related Articles:
The beginnings of Canadian Modernism
The Unmaking of Modern Poetry in Canada
Preface: Minor Poets of a Superior Order
Critical Episodes in Montreal Poetry of the 1940's

After Thoughts:
This wiki is a work in process. It is a tool of inspiration for those of us who write poetry and one day hope to be published. It is also an acedemic resource that is meant to be constantly added to. Bellow are two resources that I used in finding my biographical research on the poets who were the inspiration to the Modernist movement. By no means have I included everyone that played a major role in creating this new language of Canadian poetry. For those whom I left out, you are not forgot. Please forgive me. You are all an inspiration to me!
University of Toronto Libraries: Canadian Poetry Online

David, Jack and Robert Lecker. ECW's Biographical Guide to Canadian Poets. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993.