Letters of John Sutherland, 1942–1956
From the beginning, John Sutherland recognized that his literary gifts lay in criticism rather than in poetry. His independence from the academy and his largely autodidactic training gave him a unique perspective as a critic of Canadian literature. What these letters document, beyond a purely personal struggle, is a period (1942–1956) of great importance in the development of Canadian poetry, and it is above all the nuts and bolts of that development that they bring into keen relief: the economics of publishing books and literary magazines in the days before The Canada Council, and the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of trying wholly to live a life in literature at that time.
BRUCE WHITEMAN is a poet, critic, and librarian at McLennan Library, McGill University.