The Confederation Poets

The Confederation Poets

The Founding of a Canadian Poetry,

1880 to The First World War

Guernica Editions, 2022

James Deahl

Most know the Aesop’s Fable of the fox and the hedgehog. The fox covers a wide range of territory and sees much. The hedgehog burrows deep and ever deeper in a narrow patch of ground. The Confederation Poets is very much the work of a keen, creative and curious hedgehog. The subtitle speaks much about the period of time covered in the book, 1880 to the First World War. James Deahl, to his sleuth like credit, brings together, in short essays, reflections on 17 poets in the post Confederation era to the 1st World War. Many of the worthies are still on the reading list, others forgotten: Sangster, Roberts, Crawford, F.G.  Scott, Cameron, Lighthall, Lampman, Campbell, Hensley, Herbin, Harrison, Carman, D.C. Scott, Pauline Johnson, Wetherald and Coleman are held high in this role call of Canadian poets.

It is one thing to dip into the life and writings of these Confederation Poets and quite another thing to summarize the ethos in which they lived, moved and had their being. Dehal suggests, in his timely Introduction, “The Tory in Every Woodlot”, that many of the Confederation Poets breathed the air of a complex form of “Red Toryism”. There is, of course, much truth in such a summing up of an era. Deahl also suggests such a Tory vision is no more but such an understanding of young Canada speaks much about an era and the poetry that reflected such an ethos. Has the Red or High Tory vanished or has it merely fragmented? It might have been of some worth to ponder and parse this idea more in the Introduction. Deahl might have read my tome, The North American High Tory Tradition (2016), for a better sense of layered texture of the issues.

The Conclusion and Epilogue, “Confederation Poetry in the Postmodern Era” is worth sitting with for ample reads and rereads. The insights expressed and poignant pointers reveal crossroads that are significant places to be at. I might add, for those keen on a hedgehog scholarly burrowing, Deahl has a lengthy Bibliography that unearths a fuller approach to the short articles on the poets.

The cover on The Confederation Poets has a nuanced richness to it, tree growing out of hard rock, time worn circle in the rock, a view over water of the sun setting, glow evocative. The cover, indeed, sums up and says much in a visual way and manner.

Memoricide is a besetting illness of our age and Deahl, to his well crafted credit, deserves many a kudo for retrieving a memory of those who once lived and whose presence is, if we have but souls to see, still with us today. Do purchase, read and inwardly digest this book—a beauty and bounty for the journey into the Canadian soul, mind and imagination.

La Lotta Continua,

Ron Dart

Editor’s note: I have republished this piece with permission of the author. For more of Ron Dart’s writings, visit his website:

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