Dream Elevators: Interviews with Canadian Poets


217 pages
ISBN 1-55128-071-X
DDC C811'.5409





Edited by Beverley Daurio
Reviewed by Shannon Hengen

Shannon Hengen is a professor of English at Laurentian University. She
is the author of Margaret Atwood’s Power: Mirrors, Reflections and
Images in Select Fiction and Poetry.


Fourteen of the best-known names in Canadian poetry—P.K. Page, Leonard
Cohen, Fred Wah, and Margaret Atwood, among them—appear in this volume
and manage in their conversations to include significant details about
the recent history of Canadian poetry along with many fresh and
compelling insights about poetry itself. The book would therefore be
highly useful in courses on Canadian poetry or the history of Canadian
literature, in addition to courses in poetics or creative writing. It is
also simply a delight to read.

That Canada has developed local variants of schools of poetry, such as
feminist or Black Mountain, becomes clear. All of these established
Canadian poets, whether or not they are identified with particular
schools, muse about issues that have gripped poets in other times and
places and debate how these issues do or do not have Canadian
inflections. Is poetry self-expression or is it the recording of
thoughts and feelings believed to be “universal”? Are its roots
spiritual, geographical, mythical, psychological, or physical? Does it
have a social purpose or is it more like music or dream? That poems
should surprise seems one more or less common belief.

Language is naturally an important concern for the poets. Daphne
Marlatt, for instance, values such “wordplay” as “deconstructing
words … inventing new ones … using etymology.” All have a
passionate dedication to the craft and an admirable knowledge of both
familiar and exotic forms. Literary theory and topics associated with
it—for example, race, gender, and class—inform several of the
interviews. Overall, poetry as an enduring discipline receives a kind of
respectful, sustained attention unusual in contemporary Canadian
criticism; and so, this book makes a timely contribution.

The editors might have paid more attention to language and the
dedication of these poets to it by simply proofreading the manuscript
more carefully for typographical errors. A sampling of the views of
younger poets might have been included as well.


“Dream Elevators: Interviews with Canadian Poets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8579.