23/09/2012 by funnomad
After Exile: A Raymond Knister Poetry Reader is the first reprint of Knister’s verse in more than 20 years represents a major step forward, collecting dozens of poems for the first time in book form and printing 30 additional poems, as well as numerous letters and prose pieces.
Raymond Knister was a poet, a short story writer, and the author of My Star Predominant and White Narcissus.
“Since Knister died in 1932 at the age of 33 (before he had a chance to publish a full collection of poetry) his early promise and experimentation has made him a minor legend in Canadian Modernism. Certainly, in pieces like “The Ploughman,” “Sumach,” or “The Hawk” one can admire how he adapted Imagist techniques for the Canadian setting, eschewing the pseudo-Hellenistic (or Orientalist) imagery of peers like H.D. and Pound […] Still, a little of this goes a long way, so what’s much more exciting is some of the more experimental writing that Betts has managed to dig up, such as the urban prose-poems “Sidewalks of Toronto” (the first example of flaneur writing in Canada?) or the proto-concrete poem “Dragonflies at Noon” (1921) which is contemporaneous to e. e. cummings […] But I suppose what I appreciate most about this collection is its handiness. Not only does Betts collect all extant Knister poems and variations, but he includes short critical responses to individual poems, a selection Knister’s poetics, photos, letters, and a fairly detailed scrapbook of newspaper notices and condolences following Knister’s drowning. In short, it’s a great primer on Knister (and Canadian Modernism of the 1920-30s), produced with concision and with an eye to being readable and utilitarian. Here’s to hoping that others follow Betts’s example for the other neglected Modernists of the period.” Stephen Cain