The Atlantic Anthology: Volume2/Poetry
Michael Williamson was Reference Librarian at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa.
First of all, this volume is a companion volume to Volume 1, Prose, which came out in 1984 and was also edited by Mr. Cogswell. The two volumes are designed to be used as teaching tools to give the general reader a “generous selection” of post-Confederation prose and poetry from all four Atlantic provinces. It is almost beside the point to say that Mr. Cogswell is the obvious choice as editor; he is practically an institution in Canadian literary life because of his committed work at Fiddlehead Press and his intimate knowledge of Maritime writers. So, in that sense, this could not be a rotten anthology, and it isn’t. It includes 49 poets, beginning with John Frederic Herbin and Sir Charles G.D. Roberts and going up to George Elliot Clarke, who was born in 1960. Poets such as Bliss Carman, Milton Acorn, Alden Nowlan, and John Thompson deservedly have the most poems represented, but there is a fair selection from all the others as well. The mandate for this book is somewhat daunting: it must reflect the development of poetry in all four Atlantic provinces; be designed for “teaching” purposes; include work from “influential writers”; and provide a more generous selection from the work of female poets. Plus the usual space and cost limitations — even though the book contains a short introduction, an author and title index, and brief biographical notes on the contributors. Mr. Cogswell is nothing if not meticulous. Seeing all of this poetry together in one place is quite startling: it is clear that theme is an identifiable Atlantic genre and style — lots of place names scattered about, a tendency to formal lyricism, a kind of bleak and stark resolve in the tone of much of the work. Mr. Cogswell has produced an impressive book. The only serious omission I can think of are John Newlove’s Atlantic poems from The Cave.