W.W.E. Ross: Irrealities, Sonnets, and Laconics

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23/09/2012 by funnomad

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The poetry of William Wrightson Eustace Ross spans over forty years. The poet was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1894, worked as a geophysicist at the University of Toronto, married the well-known journalist, Mary Lowrey Ross, and died in Toronto in 1966. Ross’s work was published in The Dial – he was one of the few poets whose poems the editor, Marianne Moore, did not attempt to rewrite – but during his lifetime he published only three privately printed books.

Ross left behind not only a great mass of unpublished manuscripts, but a reputation as the first modern Canadian poet, a reputation confirmed by the publication of Shapes and Sounds: The Poetry of W.W.E. Ross in 1968. That book, fine as it was, focused on Ross the imagist only, but he was also the first surrealist (or irrealist, as he liked to speak of it) – years ahead of the automatistes in Quebec – a translator, and a sonneteer of formal excellence. Through him, modernist poetry in Canada must now be looked at with an entirely fresh eye.

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