- Gustafson, Ralph Barker
▪ 1996Canadian poet (b. Aug. 16, 1909, Lime Ridge, Que.—d. May 29, 1995, North Hatley, Que.), was renowned for his exquisitely crafted verse, which in its simplicity defines a Canadian sense of place while celebrating the country's geography and examining European influences that shaped the nation. Other recurring themes include travel and music, respectively in Ixion's Wheel (1969) and Visions Fugitive, an unpublished volume and his last work. Gustafson was educated at Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Que., and the University of Oxford. During the early 1930s he was a music instructor in Ontario and later a freelance writer in London. He settled in New York and worked for British Information Services (1942-46) but returned to Canada to teach (1963-79) at Bishop's University, where he remained until his retirement. His early poetry, including such volumes as The Golden Chalice (1935), Lyrics Unromantic (1942), and Flight into Darkness (1944), showed a progressive individuality of style. Later works such as Rocky Mountain Poems (1960), Sift in an Hourglass (1966), and Selected Poems (1972) were sometimes obscure but were considered among his best works. Gustafson was also a founding member in 1966 of the League of Canadian Poets, the editor of several poetry anthologies, and the author of short story collections, including The Brazen Tower (1974) and The Vivid Air (1980). In 1974 he won the Governor-General's Award for Fire on Stone, and in 1994 he published his latest book of poetry, Tracks in the Snow, which deals with the end of life.
* * *▪ Canadian poetborn Aug. 16, 1909, Lime Ridge, near Sherbrooke, Que., Can.died May 29, 1995, North Hatley, Que.Canadian poet whose work shows a development from traditional form and manner to an elliptical poetry that reflects the influence of Anglo-Saxon verse and the metrical experiments of the 19th-century British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins.Gustafson earned a B.A. in English language and literature from the University of Oxford and then became a tutor and journalist in London. He returned to Canada briefly in 1934 and again in 1938 and then settled in New York after World War II. He later returned again to Canada, teaching at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec (1963–79).Gustafson's early volumes of verse, such as The Golden Chalice (1935), Lyrics Unromantic (1942), and Flight into Darkness (1944), were often steeped in antiquity and ancient mythology; they showed a gradually increasing individuality of style and responded to the new approach to poetry espoused by fellow Canadian poets such as A.J.M. Smith (Smith, A.J.M.). Gustafson's later works, which are usually considered his better writings, reflect his passion for travel, music, and the landscapes and seasons of Quebec's Eastern Townships region. They include Rocky Mountain Poems (1960), Rivers Among Rocks (1960), Sift in an Hourglass (1966), Ixion's Wheel (1969), Fire on Stone (1974), Conflicts of Spring (1981), Plummets and Other Partialities and Winter Prophesies (both 1987), Shadows in the Grass (1991), and Tracks in the Snow (1994). Visions Fugitive was published posthumously in 1996. Gustafson also produced two collections of short stories, The Brazen Tower (1974) and The Vivid Air (1980).Additional ReadingDermot McCarthy, A Poetics of Place: The Poetry of Ralph Gustafson (1991).
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