The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Poetry from Canada and Ireland.


1214 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-9540281-6-9




Edited by John Ennis, Randall Maggs, and Stephanie McKenzie
Reviewed by Douglas Barbour

Douglas Barbour is a professor of English at the University of Alberta.
He is the author of Lyric/anti-lyric : Essays on Contemporary Poetry,
Breath Takes, and Fragmenting Body Etc.


Subtitled, “An Anthology of Poetry from Canada & Ireland,” this massive (1214 pages) volume is certainly that. I can’t help wondering who its intended audience is, however, not to mention its editorial vision. There’s no doubt it’s vast, and certainly eclectic, “expanding its coverage” from two previous Ireland and Newfoundland anthologies “to poetry from across Canada, including French-Canadian (partly in translation) and Aboriginal work.” All very well, and there can be no doubt that it tries hard to cover all those bases, as well as poetry in English and Gaelic from Ireland. One editor insists that the “whole raison d’etre of the anthology was, and remains, to provide a compendium of excellence of all that is best in contemporary Canadian and contemporary Irish poetry….”

That is a high ideal, but every reader has a different concept of what “excellence” and “best” mean. Why are some, rather little known, writers represented. Equally, why are others are missing?

And it’s not a question of kinds of poetry, for there are traditional lyrics, narrative poems, and experimental works, and some are very good; nevertheless, there are some striking absences. I have to ask, why Al Purdy but not Earle Birney or, especially, John Newlove (even taking into account the anthology’s insistence on only using work published since 1980). Why no George Bowering, Dennis Cooley, Roy Kiyooka, Daphne Marlatt, Fred Wah, or Phyllis Webb? These are just some strikingly obvious absences to anyone interested in contemporary Canadian poetry; I would add names like Susan Holbrook, Meredith Quartermain, Lisa Robertson, Sharon Thesen, and Lola Tostevin, but I can imagine others adding many more. Among the Irish, why no Randolph Healy, Trevor Joyce, or Maurice Scully, to name just three? There’s a lot here, but a lot missing too. That’s too bad.


“The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Poetry from Canada and Ireland.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,