Four of the
Former Preview Editors:
Here are four of the former Preview Editors, sitting in my home on Clarke Avenue,
and we are having a kind of reunion. We are thinking back to the founding of Preview,
and we will reminisce a little about what we remember of those great days.
I have here Bruce Ruddick. Say a few words, Bruce, so your voice
comes in, my boy.
Bruce Ruddick: Hi, both of
F.R. Scott: And Neufville
Neufville Shaw: There was
some Courvoisier here!
F.R. Scott: And Margaret
Surrey? Make a little noise!
Margaret Surrey: I shall
speak in a minute.
I have a memory I have been saving up for this evening; I just remember really what
started Preview, and it was a challenge from Patrick. Patrick. I
dont know, but I suppose all of us Montrealers had been challenged by the English;
we had been told that we hadnt got anything like the English tavern, hadnt got
anything like cheap ballet, cheap theatre, and Patrick was doing this to me one night, he
was baiting me, up on Côte St. Luc Road, upstairs. Well, he was doing this to me
and he said You know we wouldnt be spending an evening just wasting our time
about schoolmasters salaries and so forth, and the size of classes; we would be
founding a magazine. I remember that. He was right at the head of the
stairs, and he had his black Homburg on, because at that time he had an image of himself
as being an English Anthony Eden, or something.
Bruce Ruddick: A banker!
F.R. Scott: Or
ex-president of the Oxford Union.
Yes or a black Homburg anyway. He had an image, and his image far transcended
himself. He said we would be founding a magazine, so naturally I rose to the bait,
and said Why dont we? And he said I know a guy, and
this was Frank. I said I did not know Frank at that time; Frank was a person on
platforms to me, and . . .
Then this is your memory of how it all started?
Yes, and he said that he remembered him but was not quite sure that he had the courage to
call him, but he did.
Margaret, what is your first memory of Preview, and Patrick?
Well, I have to start with my memory of Patrick. My memory of Patrick is that about
November 1940 Philip and I were at one of Corinne Lymans Sunday afternoon tea
parties, on Oxenden, and Phil came up to me at one point and said There is a young
man over there who knows W.H. Auden. W.H. Auden was to me at that time a great
hero, and I said Where? Who is he? There was Patrick looking very sleek
and washed a young bridegroom and Peggy, who was Alice in Wonderland.
It turned out that Patrick didnt exactly know W.H. Auden so well, but he had met him
a few times and he had driven him home from a lecture at Columbia, and we met and took a
great liking to each other at once. They were living out in the most tiny little
apartment on Shuter Street (you had to crouch down to get into the two little rooms), and
we immediately invited them to tea. We were living on St. Famille Street, so they
came over to tea and Patrick brought some poems with him, and I liked them very much, and
I read him a story of mine, which he said he liked very much, and that was November.
We saw them all through December, and then we went there for Christmas. They had a
Christmas tree, and Peggy and Patrick loved Christmas, and we said we hated
Christmas. It came to the spring and we moved from St. Famille Street to Lincoln and
St. Matthew, and they moved to Dorchester Avenue and St. Matthew, and all these months we
were visiting back and forth, and Patrick was reading his poems. I kept saying from
time to time, You must meet Frank Scott, I know he would like you so much
and you would be interested in him, and finally, about June 1941, Patrick said in a
passion one day, You keep saying you must meet Frank Scott, but I never meet him,
you never invite him; when am I going to meet him? So I said I would invite
him next Sunday for tea. I invited him the following Sunday and immediately Frank
and Patrick took to each other, and it wasnt very long after that I
dont know who started the idea Frank or Patrick or both
He had met Frank at the time.
It was after Frank and Patrick met I dont know which one of them wanted to
start a magazine.
He was not very sure of Frank. It was one meeting.
F.R. Scott: A forbidding
I know Frank invited him almost at once, because Frank found him most interesting.
Neufville Shaw: It was
after that that he called me.
Margaret Surrey: So I
think it was in the fall of 1941.
Neufville Shaw: Yes.
You Neufville, and Margaret were there automatically to start with, with Patrick.
Margaret Surrey: You
called the first meeting here.
Then you got me in, then we reached out and got Bruce.
And the very first meeting was here in this room, and you invited Bruce to come, Frank.
Right in this room. I remember Bruces anxious stutter, when we were sitting
here, and Frank went to the door, and Bruce said in the heartiest sort of way,
Well, I was fascinated at first by Bruce, because at the McGill Library almost every book
I took out was marked on the card B. Ruddick, and I didnt know if it was a man or
woman, or who it was. Every book I took B. Ruddick had just finished reading.
Finally I asked the Librarian who B. Ruddick was and she said a young student who was
doing his M.A. in English Literature.
Neufville Shaw: Under
F.R. Scott: Well, Bruce,
what are your first memories?
My first memory is a telephone call, and a very quiet voice said to me, Are you B.
Ruddick. It was Neufville.
Neufville Shaw: Was it me,
Yes, you had phoned me. I had met Frank years before in the Canadian Action
we published a little card with ten things for Canadas future. When I took it
home my father saw it and said You are going to get arrested. It first
called for a Canadian Governor-General. By the way, of those ten things nine are law
already. The only tenth thing that isnt is the Canadian national anthem.
Anyway Neufville said We are starting a poetry
magazine. I had never met Neufville, but he said Well, Pamela Steed
knows you. I knew Pam Steed because she lived around the corner, and he said
We want to start a poetry magazine will you come some time and bring some
poetry? I had been publishing in the Forge magazine at McGill, and I
asked Neufville, what did Pam say? Neufville told me she said she knew a man who was
writing poetry she didnt understand at all, and Neufville said
Thats the man for us!
Neufville Shaw: And you
were the man for us!
Then I came here very anxious and I said Hello, Frank, and then you were all
sitting around in a semi-circle, and in front of the fire was a little hassock, and you
said immediately, not giving me a drink, or a chance to get my breath, Read your
F.R. Scott: That sounds
very unlike me!
I couldnt. I was very nervous, so I gave them to somebody else, and somebody
else read them, at which point I was in. And the next thing I can remember was
There was a great deal of licking stamps and folding papers.
We did have rather a marvellous time, gathering all kinds of poems to be put
together. The first issue was rather easy. We didnt know who to send it
to, but we thought of the faculties of various universities.
Neufville Shaw: The
circulation seldom went above 125.
150 was the most we ever had, I still have fourteen of every issue.
Neufville Shaw: Have you
Interrupting this historical story actually, Bruce, these things are so much sought
after now I think you owe it to the libraries of the world to sort your things out, eh?
But with a great deal of regret I will mail them up to someone you will have to
appoint a Committee.
You mail them up to me, Mike Gnarowski is becoming the historian of all little mags of
Canada. He has got a huge grant from Canada Council.
Bruce Ruddick: I have all
the unsold copies.
Mike is a charming fellow he has been an editor of Yes magazine. He is
a Polish Canadian married to a charming French Canadian girl, and he worked up at Lakehead
University, of all places and he is now on the staff of Sir George Williams.
He is going to be in Montreal next year, and you will get to know him . . .
Do you remember another thing we began with, by the way, when we thought of a little
magazine in Canada? We had two other magazines in mind the Fortnightly
Review, and the other was Alan Crawley with Contemporary Verse
There is another thing: we mustnt forget First Statement.
I remember they came in here many years later.
I remember their entrance to this house. You were shown to the living room and they
were shown to the rear of the house I dont know whether you remember that
but they were shown to the dining room or somewhere, and they were hidden there.
It was a masonic rite: they had to kiss the goat.
Just a minute. One of the most mysterious parts of the great revival of poetry in
the English language in Montreal in 1940, 1941, 1942, is the relationship between the First
Statement group and Preview.
Neufville Shaw: When did
they come into being?
My memory is that Patrick started with Preview, and John Sutherland had arrived in
Montreal. He heard about us, and he submitted a poem or poems to Patrick, and
Patrick refused them. John went off in a kind of huff, and decided he would have to
have his own magazine. Now this is my vague memory of what actually took place, so
that things started after Preview
Bruce Ruddick: You are
skipping at least a year and a half.
Well here is the first list of published Editors, F.R. Scott, Margaret Day, Bruce Ruddick,
Patrick Anderson and Neufville Shaw.
Bruce Ruddick: P.K. Page
came in an issue later.
Thats true, and I think Patrick found P.K. Page by reading Contemporary Verse and
finding a poem he liked. And this girl turned up in Montreal.
Dont you remember those parties when that whats his name, that man who
threw all those parties, that Scotchman?
Thats right, living in the Grosvenor Apartments.
Margaret Surrey: Yes.
Well look, P.K. Page appeared as Editor at No 2. She only missed No. 1. But Klein, I am
sure, did not come in until a good deal later.
Probably not before we got our cover. Klein came in when we were respectable.
Thats where Patrick met P.K. At Bill Frasers.
Bill Fraser was a man who used to have many meetings he was also running the Forum Sunday
Margaret Surrey: Patrick
met P.K. at one of his parties.
Bruce Ruddick: We were
reading Cecil Day Lewis, Auden . . .
Neufville Shaw: And
worrying a little about Thomas.
Could we just keep these voices one after the other. When did we first really begin
talking about Thomas, seriously, as an influence? I thought Patrick had pretty
Margaret Surrey: I had the
Thomas poems in 1940.
Neufville Shaw: He was
there, but he was very dormant.
The influence was not, by the way, anything to do with these poets We lead them, but there
was a kind of respect I felt at least.
F.R. Scott: I
can remember when we started the McGill Fortnightly, there was a feeling that all
poetry was going to be totally renewed. All the poetry of the past, particularly
the Victorians, was over, and a great new era was dawning. Modem poetry was there
gaining influence. This was 1925, 1926 and 1927; and Smith, A.J.M. Smith was the
predominant influence then, and he was a specialist on Eliot and Yeats, but he was
introducing Cummings and Pound and Frost and the great Americans of the time. There
was a sense that the whole of poetry was being reborn. Now when I remember Preview,
we felt that a lot of new poetry was being written but we didnt have the same sense
that everything was changing.
Well, as far as the influences were concerned, I am sure that we all read them; they were
immensely important in teaching us the style, or voice, a kind of poetic medium, but I
dont remember a thing about in the early days of Preview a
thing about the idea that we were derivative, that we were influenced by anybody
else. The idea was to make a Canadian voice, and it was rather ridiculous and maybe
a bit arrogant of us, but that is what made us survive.
I remember nothing of influences, but my feeling was that Patrick was England, and it was
almost an anti-Colonial statement. We were trying to rise and meet this.
Certainly I cant say that we derived either from Auden or Cummings or the McGill
Bruce Ruddick: We have
forgotten Eliot, you know.
Neufville Shaw: Or Eliot.
Bruce Ruddick: And
In my memory anyhow we werent deriving from any one. We were just trying to
make something to write. I wasnt a poet at all like the rest of you
and my feeling was, when first Patrick came he was a very exciting sort of person
with a new sort of poetry which I suppose was very much influenced by Thomas. I was
excited about starting a magazine and writing stories and being published in the magazine.
Going to the actual occasions when we met, as a group of editors, particularly in that
fantastic establishment that Patrick had off Dorchester Street my memory there is
sitting in that incredible little back room, and then we all read poems we had written in
turn, starting generally on Patricks left and round about. I will never forget
on one occasion (I think it was after Christmas holidays), we hadnt met for some
time and we came back and Patrick sat there as Chairman, with someone on his left.
We all read around one or two poems each, then I said to Patrick Have you got any
poems to read? He said Yes, I have twenty-four.
He also had something else: he used to make his own cigarettes. Do you
remember? He would sit there before he read a poem, he would sit and wind his
cigarettes out. I remember Frank, Neufville, who used to produce three poems.
I always used to reach in a pocket and pick up a bit of tissue paper or something
else. I always wrote my poems in little snatches; when surgery lectures got boring,
I used to write them down. But I wanted to say something totally different about the
beginning of Preview.
You used to call Patrick old bean. You used to say How are you, old
Yes, I used to call him old bean. I said Hello, Colonel and he almost
killed me, I remember. But the thing I felt most personally and importantly was not
the derivative aspect of it at all. While I had been at McGill and had been writing
on the Forge I had known Franks Fortnightly Review and A.J.M. Smith
and English poets. But it was a separate identity that was quite marvellous, and
when I was in Medical school I used to love to come to the meetings of Preview.
Everyone was writing their own poetry, trying their own things if you could trace
the sources, but it was very very exciting. It was what I might call a
pre-psycho-analytic psychotherapy: the kind of thing that makes people healthy, and
if they dont get it, they go to analysts.
F.R. Scott: Neufville?
I really dont know what to say, I still cant get over the idea of
Patricks challenge: Patrick representing a country where all this was
naturally important and we living in a country where it seemed all this was unnatural and
unimportant. Somehow or other I have a feeling that most of us wrote verse and short
stories to some extent to establish the Canadian idea (mortgages and meeting bills and so
on was somehow unimportant), that we were meeting Patrick in a way.
Bruce Ruddick: Yes he was
Yes, Patrick was very important. I remember, Frank, your sending the first few
copies to A.J.M. Smith for his blessing. Do you remember that? And we in due
course received the blessing. This didnt matter too much Smiths
blessing to my mind did not matter too much it was participating in the excitement
that Patrick generated in me.
What I think we are all saying is that it was a group writing original verse, a group
aware of verse being written round about, but certainly not just being derivative (though
there were echoes of various people), and in that sense it was a more mature group than
the group that started the McGill Fortnightly, which was after all undergraduate,
though freeing itself from old traditional forms of verse. But to me there was that
excitement in the Preview group this marvellous kind of feeling that it
really was terribly important tremendous excitement and great fun, lots of good
times and a sense of importance. I hadnt had anything like it since the Fortnightly
days. Now, I want to bring the conversation back to our relationship with the First
Statement group which developed alongside; there was a kind of rivalry and yet
I would like to go back to mention Patrick, and tell you what I really think to me was the
most important. Frank was a lawyer, Mark was a school teacher, Neufville was a
school teacher, I was a medical student, but Patrick was a poet. All day long.
He used to be very angry at me if I did not write a poem. He excoriated me. He
made me feel guilty. When I would come and say I havent got any thing this
month, he would say God damn it you are a poet or something like that
in his own vernacular. He had this influence that from the first time that I
can remember, he was the professional, and his professionalism shamed us and encouraged us
at the same time. Patrick, for all his shortcomings, was at least professional, and
he stimulated us to do what we had to do. Thats the thing I remember most
impressively. Though I had my personal difficulties with this man not
difficulties, feelings his presence as a poet, a man whose life was dedicated to
poetry that is all he wanted to do teaching school was a way of earning a
living that was something I had never met in this country before, and it was the
most profound thing I remember of the early days of Preview.
F.R. Scott: Do you agree
with that, Neufville?
Oh, yes, very much so, very very much so.
Patrick could not stand a day in which he hadnt written three or four hours of
poetry. If he hadnt done that he was miserable. But Patrick left
Canada. I wouldnt look him up in England. Why wouldnt I look him up?
He was the conscience of our poetry, and the conscience of our working at poetry.
There was a rumour about Patricks murder. Had you heard it? So Mary
rang up Patrick about the winter before last to ask him if he had been murdered, and
Patrick denied it.
Bruce Ruddick: No!
He denied it?
He also said When you see Neufville, tell him how angry I am with him he has
been in England several times and has never called me up, and I feel very angry and
annoyed with him. Subsequent to this I did call him up.
Well, Mary was just saying to me that she was struck listening to us talk that it was
Patrick, Patrick, Patrick. But I said that you really cant understand how at
the very beginning Patrick was a sort of dynamo among us all. As Bruce says, he was
a professional poet, and not only that, we were all very young this was 25 years
ago we were all very young and it isnt the same thing at all. And came
the time later when I said to Patrick your poems are very beautiful but they
are nothing but words where are the ideas behind your poems, where is your point of
view where is your philosophy, and he began to say to me Margaret says that I
have to have a point of view Margaret says I have to have a point of
view. But he did have to have a point of view, and he didnt have a point
of view, and that is why he didnt develop further as a poet.
Could I put a question to all of you, and that is, later P.K. came and later Abe (Klein)
came, both good poets (I think anyway), but why, why is it still Patrick, why does Patrick
persist through out?
I would like to get back to the Patrick thing. When I was a young runner in the
McGill University Library, I was very encouraged by Harold Files. He was the most
marvellous teacher I ever had.
F.R. Scott: A great man.
Great man. I wrote my poetry, it was in this tiny thing. And I heard that
Langston Hughes was coming to Ogilvys, and I would go and see Langston Hughes
I didnt know any poets and then I would read Langston Hughes poetry and
say, well, he was not for me. And one night I met Louis McNeice he stole my
girl from me he literally did and he said to me A poet is a
poet. Louis McNeice was the first professional poet I had ever met. . . . This
was 1939, he came over here and gave a series of lectures. Now after that . . . Louis
McNeice, by the way, impelled me to think that poetry was a serious concern when I
was in the University, poetry was something that I adored and would work at, but as a
serious concern it never impressed me. But to meet a professional poet, . . . .
Patrick, despite all his shortcomings was a professional, and that is really what one most
profoundly needs in these burgeoning days that you begin to organize.
Neufville Shaw: And in a
City like Manchester, eh?
Bruce Ruddick: Yeh
and thats Montreal
Neufville Shaw: Yeh
Margaret Surrey: I
F.R. Scott: I
must say I think, from the point of view of new poetry and excitement in it, I think P.K.
Page contributed a great deal; I think everything she wrote at that time and that we heard
she wrote, including some of her short stories, was very exciting. It is true
Patrick dominated the situation; he had started it. But I would have thought that
she brought an influence of considerable importance and and made it more than just a
Patrick show. Klein came in so much later (and Klein by this time was pretty well
established) that I didnt feel he added a great deal to the Preview group,
except that every now and then, being a personality here, he gave us some good poetry and
so on. But the essential thing that made Preview was undoubtedly Patrick.
Well, you mentioned that P.K. Page came in she was a very quiet unassuming person,
who wrote her poetry which we all admired, but she didnt have a messianic
sense. We followed a messiah, a man who wanted to make poetry and make. . .well he
caught on with all of us who had unattached attitudes. We suddenly found something
around which we could get together the Preview Group and Patrick did,
as the messiah, bring us. . . . Although I think P.K. was a better poet, I think
Patrick had the attitude. He was a professional.
Neufville Shaw: I think
Irving Layton was a professional too.
F.R. Scott: Irving was not
in the group.
Neufville Shaw: Why
wasnt Irving. Why?
Bruce Ruddick: He
wasnt writing then.
But remember the First Statement people were here, in this house. They came
here once, and they were shown into another room; they were put below the salt as it were,
and we were like oil and vinegar. One layer sat on top of the other.
Bruce Ruddick: Well, they
were quite hostile to us.
And remember when Preview was dying we tried, in a sense, to keep it going by
mating with First Statement, and we became Northern Review.
F.R. Scott: And shortly
It didnt last more than a few months. But among the First Statement bunch
there was Irving Layton, and he was a very good poet, in Canadian terms.
Well, the present historian of this period is Wynne Francis, who teaches Canadian poetry
Well, First Statement and Preview were antagonistic. The antagonism
between First Statement and Preview did not begin the first day. Preview
began by itself, and later First Statement
Margaret Surrey: But why,
Basically because John Sutherland, and I have a great deal of respect for John (if anyone
was going to give an O.B.E. away I would give one to John), basically, John wanted to run
his own particular camp, his own show. John wanted to run it, and in Preview,
although we owed a great deal to Patrick, I dont think we were a runnable group.
Bruce Ruddick: No, we
Margaret Surrey: It
wasnt just a one man show.
All I was thinking about Patrick was that he gave that little catalytic action. As a
professional poet he did not dominate anybodys writing.
None of us is derivative of Patrick at all. None of us wrote like Patrick.
Nobody of the Preview group had anything to do with Patrick, but as a professional
he was encouraging to us.
One thing he did, though, was to introduce the Dylan Thomas idiom in his own verse, but
not in anybodys elses.
No, nobody else wrote Dylan Thomas or Auden . . . some bad Eliot.
I think Thomas was in everything that Preview wrote.
Thomas was not in everything we wrote at all.
In any case, John Sutherland was a sort of professor of First Statement. The
thing that always astonished me about First Statement was that John
Sutherland was able to run Irving.
F.R. Scott: Dont
forget Irving was marrying his sister.
Neufville Shaw: No, I
wont forget that. (Laughter)
It is rather astonishing that at the same time in Montreal there should be these two
groups, each with its own magazine. There was unquestionably a kind of rivalry
between them, and yet I dont think on Preview we worried too much about what
they were writing in First Statement. We didnt care at all, we were
Neufville Shaw: I think
perhaps they did.
It was an adolescent thing because they were very angry at us, and we rather looked down
on them. We had staked our claims two years before and we had a circulation of
125. Thats rather majestic in this country, and they had one of 60.
The thing that amazes me (you talk about oil floating on water) Preview floating on
First Statement. But a more amazing quotation is that Preview and First
Statement were English verse completely ignorant of French-Canadian verse.
No, but at that time we didnt think there was a single thing going on in French
Canada in the way of poetry or literature that interested us. We were totally
ignorant and not trying to find out.
Neufville Shaw: To an
outsider, isnt that astonishing?
Yes, because Saint-Denys-Garneau had already written all this verse. What is more,
Saint-Denys-Garneau was in this room here, and I just met him once only; he lived down the
Neufville Shaw: Yes, and I
read his verse.
Anne Hébert was writing; her first book was published, I think, in 1942 the time
we started but it didnt impinge upon us at all. We were an
English-speaking group entirely cut off.
We didnt think twice about it. We thought this was natural.
There was no concept at all that there was French verse that meant anything. We
didnt read it.
No, no, it was Westmount verse in a way. Most of our meeting was done in Westmount,
right in this room.
We used to meet in Westmount and I used to write about Point St. Charles.
This is Wynne Francis thesis, that of these two warring groups the First
Statement group were down in the real part of Montreal, Stanley Street, where terrible
things happened, and where if you rang the right doorbells you could get anything you
wanted twenty-four hours a day, and she contrasted this with the Westmount type, the grand
Preview. Now this is a little bit funny.
Bruce Ruddick: I lived two
blocks from Stanley Street all my life.
Neufville Shaw: It is
As a matter of fact the most illuminating social life I ever had came because Preview introduced
me through you people to the Painters whom I had never met, and we all met on St. Famille
Street. I have never forgotten how the poetic group liberated you. But I want
to say something about when our first issue came out and I was given the marvellous job of
taking care of the finances all $33 of them and the most marvellous thing
that happened was that after our first issue was sent out to 100 or 150 people, the
letters we got back of enthusiasm were so encouraging. People wrote from all sorts
of places, very encouraging, very sweet letters.
What I would like to get on the tape and solidify is this: that we got expressions
of encouragement from Michigan and elsewhere in the States thats a loaded
statement but McGill, despite the fact that it had a poetry room remember
that Frank? it had a poetry room, and it subscribed to mimeograph verse from
England, but it would not buy a subscription to Preview.
Thats true. But it was far too expensive at $1.00 per year.
This perhaps justifies the discrimination.
Dont forget the reason we chose the name Preview was not that we really
thought that we were writing for ourselves and merely mimeographing material to have a
better look at it. I think the first sentence of the first Editorial was This
is not a magazine. We really wanted to be a writing group.
Bruce Ruddick: Right.
F.R. Scott: And we
didnt care really how many subscribers we had.
Thats rather an ideal statement, really. I do think McGill could have done
better by us.
Everybody could have. But as Frank says, what we wanted to do was to get a magazine
together and to mimeograph it and send it out, not with too much ambition but just to
write; not to eat, but for love.
And to see what we were writing in a second stage of presentation.
We sent it out for love but we hoped to be loved. McGill didnt love us.
McGill wasnt interested, but we werent writing for McGill anyway. We
wrote for other things. I remember we sent away to a certain radio critic
Phelps was his name, Arthur Phelps and then suddenly Arthur Phelps writes a long
letter. He wanted to meet some of us. When you wrote something it was rather
nice to have someone who wanted to meet you it gave you an identity, and the
identity of the poet in Canada had never been defined before.
Basically that is what one was hoping McGill would do, but McGill didnt do it.
Dont forget at this time Nineteen forty-one, two, three, four and five
because of the War, or whatever it was, there was a great revival of interest in all the
arts in Canada. Painting was getting going and it was felt that art helped the war
Bruce Ruddick: There was a
The federation of Canadian artists got established, and it was an upsurge a release
of some kind of energy which came out in the poetry way as it did in other fields.
Bruce Ruddick: It was a
marvellous time is all I can say.
Neufville Shaw: But mainly
it was just youth, eh?
Honest to God, it wasnt youth, it was something else. I hate the term
respectability, but at least authenticity. People would say, You write",
and when you wrote you were no longer writing in a school magazine or the Fortnightly
Review or the Forge magazine, or a political thing, but you could send this
small thing out and people all over the country all hundred of them would
respond. Now to have 100 people respond, you know
Well we never had 100 respond, now come on Bruce.
They bought and renewed their subscriptions.
The first beginnings were in the twenties with the McGill Fortnightly and Canadian
Mercury. During the 1930s there was a lull and then out came New
Provinces, a sort of summing up of the first efforts. The Canadian Forum was
a kind of continuing thing, more or less useful all the way through. But in the
forties there begun a much larger upsurge and this resulted in the first
considerable publication of books of verse. I mean, Smiths book came out in
1943, P.K. Page came out, Patrick Anderson came out, I came out. Other people began
to produce books of poetry. Nowadays there are some critics who think that all
modern poetry in English began in the 1940s.
Neufville Shaw: In
Yes, just because the books were published in the 1940s, whereas actually there was quite
a history behind that, and Preview brought together the most important influences
and groups writing in Montreal.
There was nothing else in Canada at the time, was there?
Yes, there was, there was Contemporary Verse in Vancouver and that is all.
Nothing, I think, in Toronto. Preview had published at least three numbers before First
Bruce Ruddick: It was a
long time before we were appreciated.
F.R. Scott: Accepted.
Accepted, if you like, but at least there were people willing. A small audience was
infinitely better than trying to read to your Mother-in-law, you know.
F.R. Scott: I
never tried that, Bruce!
Neufville Shaw: I never
worried about my Mother-in-law.
My Mother-in-law always asks me why I end up sadly? But there was something very
strange that Patrick had done to give a sense of professionalism. But I want to come
back to something else. The thing we have forgotten was we had thought although
Patrick was English that we would write a Canadian poetry. We had this nationalistic
thing, I am afraid.
Whats your memory, Bruce, about the way we discussed whether there was a Canadian
poetry, or just poetry in Canada?
Well, I am afraid that, tragically, we wanted to be Canadian poets in the sense that we
felt this strange division between the great English poets and the American poets and we
tried, derivatively sometimes, to imitate them. We tried to invent our own voice
which was a rather foolish idea. But very frequently the Preview group was
referred to as Canadian poets instead of poets, and there was still in this country the
saying that this was a Canadian painter, a Canadian something. There was a parochial
sense, and we were fighting it, but we were involved in it. We thought we could
invent a Canadian language, a Canadian. . . .
We tried to. But as I remember the origin of Preview Patrick challenged
me. I dont mean in the sense that that was the only origin of Preview.
But I think Patricks challenge, in a sense, was a challenge to all the Canadian
members of Preview to establish ourselves, and in that sense we were derivitive,
because Patrick was Europe, or he was London anyway he was the other side. We
tried to meet him, whether we meant it or not, I dont know, but we were derivative.
Now, speaking of this ridiculous term called feedback that you hear all day
long. . . . All of us, by the way, used to come to meetings, used to say, My
God there is a marvellous poem by an Englishman or Karl Shapiro.
Shapiros poetry, for instance, which was known to us, we brought in whenever we read
poetry. It was not other Canadians. It was the poetry of other countries in
the same language, and we were very influenced and stimulated by it.
F.R. Scott: I
remember vividly that what we discussed was the nature of Canadian poetry. And one
thing we all absolutely agreed: a poem was not Canadian because it talked about
moose, or about ice, or about snow, or a mountain, or something or other. Although,
as a matter of fact, in that sense I think Patrick has written some of the most
Canadian poetry. He is the only poet who has really written about snow with a real
feeling for snow but a poetic feeling. It had nothing to do with
Canada. It might have been snow anywhere. It didnt have to be in
Canada. I am sure we all agreed that the established labels supposed to represent
Canada had nothing to do with Canadian poetry; but we also, I remember, agreed that a poet
writes out of a geographic milieu and a social milieu, and this is Canada, and therefore
something will come out that speaks of the place he is in.
Did you know we had an issue of the magazine where we tried to write about specifically
personal things? Do you remember that?
F.R. Scott: No.
Well there were little descriptions of personal experiences, and there was a very bad
vignette I gave about a prostitute in a bus, do you remember? We tried to invent a
language, and that was terrible!
Whats the name of that fancy photographer? Roloph Beny? Are his
photographs of Canada going to be Canada? They are going to be Vogue.
They arent going to be Canada.
Well we did have a tremendous difficulty at the time. First of all, we were
establishing a poetry magazine. Second of all, by the way, we were not free from
the Canadian problem of separating Canada from Britain and America, trying to become a
nation, which was ridiculous and marvellous! We thought we were very much involved
with this thing. Although we did not want to do Tom Thomson poems, we always thought
we might be able to invent, or come to, or discover, a kind of Canadian poetry. Now
the trouble was when we talked about it as Canadian poetry it was parochial (instead of
English poetry, meaning poetry in the English language). But we did have this
feeling very profoundly in those early days.
But I am very firmly convinced we wanted to get away from the easy marks of Canadian
poetry, which you could find in previous Canadian poems, and that we were entering into
what I think A.J.M. Smith called the cosmopolitan, the universal. We were a part of
the total western world, writing in the English language. We wrote from Canada,
sure, but we were almost on the same level as anybody writing from anywhere else, and we
wanted to judge ourselves in that universal aspect.
That was our hope, but whether, basically, we were, was another thing.
I come back to that feedback idea, for instance. We always brought in
beautiful English poetry, beautiful American poetry . . . stimulating . . . best . . . and
when we sat around we said Did you read this book, or that book, or that
poem? For instance, W.R. Rogers, I remember, came in. God! were we
excited. But he was an English poet.
Neufville Shaw: Irish.
And we were still, in this sense, not being fed by our own history. We didnt
have a history in poetry to go back to.
Neufville Shaw: No, we dont.
And this is the thing that I thought we were really struggling with.
Neufville Shaw: We havent.
We havent, no. Because none of us really had great admiration for previous
Canadian poetry. Oh God, Bliss Carman was good . . . goodness gracious!
We never mentioned a single one of the so-called classical Canadian poets, not once.
Not one, not a one ever gave us any stimulus.
Smith hadnt produced his Book of Canadian Verse yet.
We didnt come out of our evenings for instance, excited by Have you read the
old, 1870 Canadian . . .
F.R. Scott: Or The
Wreck of the Julie Plante.
Neufville Shaw: How about
F.R. Scott: No, Lampman
didnt count at all, at that time.
Not a bit. No Canadian poet meant a damned thing to us. None of them ever
moved us. But British and American poets. . . .
Really the basic thing about Canadian poets for us, I think, is that they didnt even
move us to contempt.
Bruce Ruddick: Right.
F.R. Scott: They
didnt move us, period.
No, but there are the two types of movement, and writers like Lampman or. . . .
F.R. Scott: Theres
injection and excretion.
Neufville Shaw: Or
Carman. . . . No. But we were not even angry with them. Now, if we
tended to get angry, we tended to get angry with, say, someone like Tennyson.
Youre quite right. Not one of us really was angry or involved with previous
Canadian poetry, it is a striking thing. But we tried to invent something we
didnt succeed but we really tried in some way, and still, not that we were
But still, dont forget, we were awfully glad when Klein joined us, because we knew
Klein had written some very good verse.
Bruce Ruddick: Thats
And we were glad that Smith joined us, for the same reason. We were beginning to get
a body of Canadian verse which we recognized.
Neufville Shaw: Smith
didnt join us; he patted our head.
He disjoined us. That was a very funny thing. We were so peripherally
concerned with the problems of Canada, and in our personal way with the problems of
poetry. Patrick dealt with the problems of poetry, and the problems of Canada were
political. But we never, never went back and felt, My God!
Yet Patrick, who had this sort of universal approach wrote poems set in Canada the
beautiful skiers, and all about the milk bottle freezing and the ice coming up and pushing
up the little cap on the top and he had a keen eye about what was around him here,
which was Canadian.
He infuriated me. He made poetry of things I took for granted.
Neufville Shaw: Yes.
I used to be enraged. He taught me to look at things I never saw till he came with a
fresh eye. When you say the moose culture we didnt have
this rather settled idea of what was the Canadian symbol.
No, but I think Patrick helped us to free ourselves. We were getting free anyway
from a notion that we had to be something which was identifiable, easily, as being written
Neufville Shaw: Right.
Whereas, actually, we wanted to write a poem which could be read in English in the United
States, in fact anywhere the English language is read, and that it would be read as a poem
first, and not first from where it came.
Does this matter? I am just thinking now in terms of Canada in 1966: the successful
Canadians are French Canadians, and they have a moose touch.
They are the most intensely, in a sense, nationalist in the way they write poetry.
They write from their own culture.
Neufville Shaw: So they
have a moose culture.
Yes, thats quite true. We didnt believe in their kind of moose.
I believed in the moose, but I thought it was universal.
It might have been better for us if we had believed in the moose.
You know the lovely thing? The moose when it was first met was called
loriginal it means original and we were always looking for
the original in our work.
LOriginal does not mean original!
F.R. Scott: I
am going to ask Neville to open this discussion we are having about how we and the Preview
group felt about Canada and its poetry, and how this contrasts with what we now know about
French Canadian poetry developing contemporaneously with us, but about which we knew
It seems to me, basically, that French Canadian poetry can only be French Canadian, while
English Canadian poetry can only be un-Canadian. The only thing we were interested
in, basically and Patrick really meant this to us was in establishing
ourselves in international terms.
By the way, you are absolutely right, because we used to get ourselves in a titillation of
excitement when somebody wrote from England that they had read us, or an American journal
had accepted . . . this was better than being a free Governor-General.
What was our magazine? Our chief, our capital magazine was Horizon,
Margaret Surrey: Yes, Horizon.
Neufville Shaw: That was
the thing that mattered.
On this point that we had to be un-Canadian in the sense that we had to clear away . . .
Neufville Shaw: Not
Not anti, un-Canadian. . . . We were clearing away what we considered to be early
trappings and early worn out symbols of something Canadian. We measured ourselves
against the general content of English poetry written in the United States and Canada,
where the best poetry was being written, and we tried to be in that general stream.
And so, we did not, therefore, in a sense turn our backs on anything specifically
Canadian, though if we wrote a poem good enough to be read anywhere, it didnt matter
at all if it tallied Canadian subject matter. That was irrelevant. But at the
same time the French Canadian poets were intensely concerned with their own position,
their own plight, their own miseries, their own hopes, and they had within themselves what
they needed to be intensely involved in writing. And I dont think at that time
they were drawing so much from contemporary French and American poets, though this may be
a dangerous statement.
Do you remember that we did once try to suggest that we were at one time a bridge, that we
were both English and American, and perhaps we could write a poetry. . . . We did
suggest at some ridiculous moment that this was some kind of thing between England and
America, and we, who had our roots as English in the two cultures, might be a synthetic
function. Nothing came of it.
F.R. Scott: It is rather a
Bruce Ruddick: Well, we
had bold thoughts.
Patrick said something about this. He said Canadian poets are always interested in
the grand cause. They are interested in . . . well at that time it would be Spain,
eh? Franco, and the privileged vs. the unprivileged . . . while the English poet
might be interested in the way a heron takes off and flies into a sunset. This was
F.R. Scott: Also Dylan
Bruce Ruddick: We were so
Neufville Shaw: Yes, we
Bruce Ruddick: Terribly
serious. Thats true.
In a way the English poet was very particular.
By the way that was a marvellous thing in Preview. It was a long time
before we began to write formal poetry. It was free poetry.
You became a member because Pam said you wrote free verse, verse that didnt rhyme.
Thats right, and the old classic modes were discarded by us. Then, finally,
when we learned our craft better, we began to try and write villanelles.
Well, you might find it difficult to believe that, in the old McGill Fortnightly days,
not to use a perfect rhyme, but to use a half rhyme, was considered a very great
advance. Wilfrid Owen introduced us to the half rhyme idea, and he was an influence
at that time. The Imagists were an influence. All that had totally disappeared
by the time of Preview. It was a free, open form of verse.
Bruce Ruddick: There was
not one poem in the classic mode at all.
What about Summers Joe? What would you call that? Dont
you think its the best thing Patrick ever wrote?
Summers Joe? Its free association.
It wasnt quite true that we had no formal verse, because I wrote my little thing on
R.B. Bennett, which was entirely rhymed couplets; but this was looked upon a bit askance
by Preview and they only let it in out of general good will.
Bruce Ruddick: It was
Abe wrote formal a bit, and Patrick wrote formal a bit, and Frank wrote formal a bit, but
I dont think you or Pat did.
P.K.? No. It was one of those things, though, that you did. The idea of
writing formal poetry was not a concern of the Preview group. When a formal
poem came, one said Well, its Franks and its good, or. . . .
Still, only the people who were interested in formal verse were ones who persisted.
Now that Preview is dead. . . .
Bruce Ruddick: Thats
Neufville Shaw: You and I
and Pat are dead as poets. . . .
Bruce Ruddick: It was an
expression of a craft.
Do you think I should go upstairs and read some of this secret poetry Patrick left behind
twenty years ago?
You shouldnt go upstairs you should go upstairs and come down!
What do you remember about the way we handed alcohol at our meetings of Preview?
The most marvellous thing I remember is that we had parties, we used to do jokes,
imitations, act, turn somersaults, have the mast marvellous times, and, as I look back
now, we never had a drink. Not one drink. Not a damned bit of alcohol all
during those war years. And people said it was because we could not get it. It
is not true. I was in medical school, I could get plenty of alcohol, and we
drank. But the poets and writers we never drank a thing.
Well, Patrick used to drink interminable cups of tea, and when the teapot was empty we
would turn around to his wife and say Peggy, the teapots empty! and she
would have to go and fill it. But I remember we each brought one bottle of beer at
the most, and thats what we had. So we went through all this genuine poetic
excitement and mutual stimulation, and we didnt require anything the way of alcohol
Astonishing! Because the rest of the world was drinking itself happy! People
said that during the war you didnt get it. I was at that time an intern, and I
used to get 4 oz. per person per ward. And I could get all kinds of it. Now,
the doctors drank, I remember. I never, by the way, recall an internes party
when there wasnt plenty of liquor. Not that we got drunk. But I think
back to those Preview days of absolute hilarity there was no alcohol at
You couldnt get beer. I had to hunt for a bottle for my charwoman and my
I hunted . . . I owned a man: he had an ulcer and I used to give him his anti-acid,
and he sold me his beer.
Beer was scarce, and we couldnt afford hard liquor.
Let us sit down and tell sad stories of the death of Preview. Why did it
I think you killed it. Frank used to predict that everything would die soon.
We were rather alarmed; we did not want to upset Frank by continuing to live. You
said, Its got to end, its got to end, because you wanted the
complete files! I will tell you why I think it died. Patrick went away, . . . P.K.
Page too, and I went off in the army, and where did Neville go?
Neufville Shaw: Yes, and
Margaret. . . .
Frank was very busy building new worlds. And I was in Camp Borden, I remember,
feeling very depressed trying to psychoanalyse one of my chief administrative officers
a totally ridiculous attempt on my part and nothing was happening. I
was very sad and quite depressed being in the army away there. I was getting fat on
beer and thin on. . . .
Neufville Shaw: What about
Abe had very little to do with it. Now, Abe didnt wander away. He was a
comet. He just came and streaked his tail through us and disappeared again.
Abe never was really dedicated to it. Abe never had any profound identification with the
thing. He came as a friend, and he felt he was just passing his little showers of
comet sparks. And, by the way, when I came back and phoned Abe (when I got
married to Dorothy) I asked him: I want to talk to you. He said,
What do you want to talk about? I said Joyce. He said,
I am not interested in Joyce any more. That was the end. Abe
disappeared. P.K. went away.
Neufville Shaw: She got
No she didnt. P.K. got married in 1950, but Preview died in 1944, and
then Northern Review took over and it was rather encouraging. We all thought
it would be a great book but we went North with Sutherland.
F.R. Scott: Neufville,
what is your feeling about why the thing ended?
You, know, really, I couldnt say. We all just ran out. We wrote
ourselves out and got tired. We were like toy machines, and someone wound us
up. It wasnt Patrick who wound us up. Maybe it was our age that wound
us up. And then we just ran down.
F.R. Scott: I
have the last number of Preview here, no. 23. It opens with a story by P.K.
Page, called The Ducks. It goes on to a P.K. Page poem, then a poem by
James Wreford. Remember the Wreford incident? He was a kind of
happening. Then there is a poem by Patrick Anderson, and a poem by Dennis Giblin,
another poem by Dennis Giblin, and then there is a story Portrait of a Marine
by Patrick Anderson, and thats the end; and there is not the slightest indication in
this last number that anything was going to end. It just stops.
There are only two of the original people writing: P.K. and Patrick.
In that issue. But you know I was around. The editors numbers of us
had gone, and it just came to an end. And then the question was: what
did those of us who were around do? And at that point we joined in with the old First
Statement group, and became Northern Review. But the first number
of Northern Review contained a fair batch of old Preview Editors.
Bruce Ruddick: Thats
F.R. Scott: I
just want to put on the record the statement about Northern Review, which starts
off in its opening editorial with the cryptic remark Northern Review represents
the amalgamation of two wartime magazines, Preview and First Statement, but
its editorial board has been fortified by writers from distant points.
Actually the Editorial Board is here: Managing Editor, John Sutherland; Editorial
Board, F.R. Scott, A.M. Klein, Irving Layton, Patrick Anderson, A.J.M. Smith, Audrey
Aikman, R.J. Simpson and Neufville Shaw Regional Editors: P.K. Page, Dorothy
Livesay, James Wreford and Ralph Gustafson.
So that it reached out, to be as it said, a national magazine. P.K Page had by this
time gone out to Vancouver, and she was writing from there. The number of Preview
when we all broke up was 23.
Bruce, now that we know when we stopped, tell me your deepest feelings about the Preview
Well, I had written poems because I wanted to, not because I ever had an audience, and not
because I wanted them published. I just wrote them, good, bad or indifferent, and I
had a very good professor at McGill University who stimulated me to found The Forge magazine.
F.R. Scott: Who.
Yes, Files, and this was a parochial kind of thing. The things I wrote were at least
known in a little teeny weeny group.
F.R. Scott: You founded The
Yes, I founded The Forge. The day I was asked in here, I was introduced to a
totally different world. I was a medical student, dedicated in those days to
learning my craft in medicine, but I came here and I met all of you people, and then I met
the Painters through you. You introduced me to every creative person in the whole
City. Being a member of Preview was not only writing, it was also a
marvellously expansive life to me. I was a little too joyous about it, I must
admit, but it really liberated me from a rather parochial small thing into a grander sense
of the creative intellect. I still look back now twenty-five years later and think
that if I were to say to various people, If you had to cure yourself of a disease
called loneliness, the best thing is to be an artist, and meet other artists, who are very
sympathetic, very sweet, and also extremely critical and very nasty. But you
were in a forum. It was totally different from an academic situation, or a familial
one. You really walked out into a world of ideas. We disagreed, or
agreed. It was liberating, illuminuting; it didnt improve my life an awful
lot, but it made me far more aware of the world I lived in.
The question I have often asked myself is, can the individual of creative mind, just being
by himself, develop fully, without some such experience as meeting with others? As
far as I am concerned, when I was left alone I dont think I moved forward very
much. It was only when I ran into other groups of similar minded people that things
happened. My first case, of course, was the McGill Fortnightly Review.
I ran into A.J.M. Smith and met a whole set of new ideas, and that was to me the first,
great, tremendous experience. It seems to me I shifted about ten to fifteen points
on the compass from an old attitude to a new one. Then I had another similar type of
group experience, and that was meeting the people who founded the League for Social
Reconstruction, and all the new ideas about Canada and socialism and the world in that
sense. Then another group of people founding the C.C.F. It was always a group,
but live minds and marvellous people, and that carried me mostly through the
1930s. And then came Preview, which was poetry again, and another
group, in a different context. I didnt have quite the same tremendous sense of
the whole world opening afresh, and so many new ideas coming in, but nevertheless, it had
that great spirit of creative minds thinking about themselves and the world and the
movements around them, and attaching themselves to them. But it was a group
experience and in some respects I somehow wish I had been able to act more on my own,
because I have always been working in groups and working in joint operations, and editing
joint magazines and writing books for which I was only one of the many editors.
There is too much of this mixing in with the others. On the other hand I sort of
depend on it. If I dont have them around, I dont think I would go very
well on my own. My car must be full.
Neufville Shaw: All art derives
from previous experience.
One of the greatest mathematicians was a fourteen year Indian boy, who developed a whole
new theory of permutations, combinations and mathematical relations. People have
always wondered how the imaginative mind, by itself, springs forth. But if you
examine this boys life, you will find he was very well exposed to first-rate basics
before he had his flight. I am not talking now about Preview the creative
thing, but I think of Preview as the most marvelloualy moving things to me, and I
am sure to other people who were involved.