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Lecture

Unit 3 Overview Lecture

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Department
English
Course Code
English 2060E
Professor
Prof

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Form The long poem has existed in Canadian letters for centuries, but the particular form of the long poem common in the 1970s in Canada seems to have two common sources – the documentary poem as discussed by Dorothy Livesay and ththprocessthoetics of the American New Poetry. Earlier long poems in the 18 and 19 centuries followed European characteristics such as the heroic couplet, tended to be descriptive, narrative, and topographical, to tell stories. Margaret Dickie traces the long poem’s critical heritage through modernism as a product of modernism’s public concerns – we might think of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land or Stephen Crane’s The Bridge. These poems attempt to avoid “the cult of personality” in Eliot’s terms to court a public muse. When Canadian poets use autobiography, and they do, it’s not a matter of introspection or confession, but positioning the speaker in amongst cultural and historical fragments. The long poem in the 1970s is the poem of failure – a failure of systems, of knowing, of definition, including knowing or permanently defining the self, but in this way it is a failure that generates further attempts at knowing, more poetry. Smaro Kamboureli has argued that in some way the long poem is an anti-genre driven continually by its lack of definition and desire for it. To follow from our discussion of Hutcheon’s articulation, we could argue that it uses and abuses other poetic forms in order to construct a form that resists coherence via definitive generic characteristics. It borrows from other genres. Kamboureli’s list of the genres from which the long poem borrows includes the epic, the narrative, the found poem, the lyric. It also makes what it borrows its own through juxtaposition, collage, and as Davey has argued, a dependence on a different iterative structure, not narrative (storytelling), but the repetition of themes, images, or quotations that provide alternative forms of energy. Some of these themes, as Kamboureli notes, are locality, self, and the idea of different sorts of discourses as formal elements of the long poem. Canadian poet and critic Stephen Scobie has discussed the idea that because the long poem must reject narrative, the preconceived idea, it is always a poem of discovery, documenting the poet discovering “what is already there in the factual material and also in his/herself,” but which required form to evoke it. The factual material takes the form of fragments, thus the process of composition is a type of archaeology, a putting together of fragments, where there will always be missing pieces. The desire to know more is one of the things that moves the poem/poet along. There are various types of long poem with critics attempting to formulate more satisfying
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