The somewhat notorious John Glassco was born in 1909 and died in 1981. His long life thus spanned a transitional period in Canadian writing when tile genteel romanticism of the post-Confederation period gave way to modernism, mid-century modernism and, finally, to post-modernism, shifts in taste with which he kept partly abreast both as a poet and as a prose writer. His first volume of poetry, The Deficit Made Flesh appeared in 1958 when he was nearly fifty, and during the ensuing years he published two more volumes, A Point of Sky (1964) and Selected Poems (1971), the last of which won the Governor General's Award. Between his pseudonymous flagellation poem, Squire Nardman (1966) and his later topographical poem, Montreal (1973), there appeared the two works which command a wide readership today: Memoires of Montparnasse (1970), and The Poetry of French Canada in Translation (1970). Glassco was also the author of several prose works, most notably The Fatal Woman (1974), Harriet Marwood, Governess (1976) and a seamless continuation of Aubrey Beardsley's Under the Hill (1959) and the translator of a number of prose works from French Canada, including The Journal of Saint-Denys-Garneau (1962), Lot's Wife by Monique Bosco and Fear's Folly by Jean Charles Harvey. The aim of this special issue of Canadian Poetry is to commemorate Glassco by calling critical attention to his very considerable achievements as a poet, as a translator, and as the author of several forms of fiction, including Memoirs of Montparnasse.
From the essays that follow, there emerges a complex and contradictory picture of Glassco: at once rooted in the heritage of Wordsworth, as John Burnett argues, and playful with the conventions of autobiography, as Stephen Scobie and Thomas Tausky demonstrate, Glassco seems to be as much a late romantic as a post-modernist. On the one hand, the themes and concerns of his poetry, accord with conventional notions of romanticism and, on the other, the formalistic and technical features of his work, notably the Memoirs, suggest the strategies of post-modernism as synthesized by such writers as Ihab Hassan in Paracriticisms (1975) and David Lodge in The Modes of Modern Writing (1977). Since Glassco is also, in many ways, a high modern poet of the generation of A.J.M. Smith, it is tempting to speculate that the obviously romantic and suggestively post-modern aspects of his work will make him in future Canadian criticism something of a test case for the "cyclical rhythm" that Lodge and numerous others have detected in literary history -- the "reversions to the principles and procedures of an earlier phrase" that characterizes many apparent innovations in literature. What seems certain now is that Glassco's ouevre is the product of tensions and polarities that existed as much in the man himself as in his era. It is typical of Glassco that, while the evident of the poetry and the Memoirs would suggest the centrality of these in his canon, Glassco himself is quoted in the new Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature as saying that "he was 'as much a novelist, anthologist, translator and pornographer' as he was a poet or a fine memoirist."
It is a sign of Glassco's excellence in one of his chosen fields that the Literary Translators' Association has created a John Glassco Translation Prize. Donations to a special trust fund for this purpose are invited in care of The Writers' Development Trust, 24 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 2P3.
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With this issue of Canadian Poetry, Michael Gnarowski steps down from his position as co-editor of the journal. My profound thanks go to him for his help and vision in founding Canadian Poetry and for his support and encouragement in the six years of the journal's existence.