Sealed in Struggle: Canadian Poetry and the Spanish Civil War


270 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 84-600-9155-4
DDC C811'.5208'0358





Edited by Nicola Vulpe with Maha Albari
Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


The Spanish Civil War, the saying goes, was so important that, had it
not happened, we would have had to invent it. Seen by many as the last
great stand for democracy in the 1930s in the face of growing fascism in
Germany and Italy, the Spanish Civil War has been romanticized by some
and simplified by others, and certainly perceived by all as a military
prelude to World War II. Chronologically, it coincided in Canada in
literary terms with the arrival of modernism, and in socioeconomic terms
with the Great Depression.

Although Sealed in Struggle reads like a Who’s Who of Canadian poetry
(E.J. Pratt, Dorothy Livesay, Norman Bethune, A.M. Klein, Patrick
Waddington, Miriam Waddington, Raymond Souster, Ralph Gustafson, P.K.
Page, George Woodcock, Louis Dudek, Milton Acorn, Irving Layton, and
F.R. Scott are among the writers whose work is featured), none of the
poets listed in this interesting anthology participated in the struggle.
The two best-known Canadian writers involved in Spain (Hugh Garner and
Ted Allan) did not make their reputation as poets. Although there are
many fine poems here with a Spanish setting and a civil war theme, they
are more a reflection of the poets’ political views of that time,
articulating their utopian ideas (both at home and abroad) , than
expressions of the pain and the glory engendered by the war in Spain.

The collection of 76 poems by 39 poets (some obscure or anonymous) is
enhanced by Nicola Vulpe’s fulsome introductory essay “This Issue Is
Not Ended [with Defeat],” comprehensive notes, and biographical
information on the contributors. The elegantly produced book, which

is dedicated appropriately to the Mackenzie–Papineau Battalion
veterans, captures from a Canadian political and poetic perspective one
of the most tragic events of the 20th century.


“Sealed in Struggle: Canadian Poetry and the Spanish Civil War,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,