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Canada has so many poets it is hard to keep track, due to an impressive arts council funding regime that, at one point saw a census reveal 12,000 living poets with books out from small and larger presses.

Much like in the UK or the US, but perhaps even more notably, every small town, every large city, every province, has a laureate poet. It is therefore impossible to anthologise them all - but when in 2010 Evan Jones and I put out an anthology of Modern Canadian Poets for Carcanet, the 40 or so poets we included were all out of print or unknown in the UK, except for about three. Today, in the UK, for instance, there are about five contemporary Canadian poets in print.

Back in 2010, a young Toronto-based poet, with a large press behind him, with the wonderful name Jacob McArthur Mooney, attacked (there is no other word) this anthology, as if it had been the baseball bat that had clubbed his parents to death. He stomped all over it, and suggested it was basically a fraudulent hoax - because a few poets were not included he might have expected; in point of fact there were about 11,960 poets missing, but hey....

I have not forgotten this, because a year or two before, I had written a very glowing review of his debut for Canada's leading paper, The Globe and Mail - which is Canada's New York Times.  I did not expect any favours from this young fellow, but I hadn't counted on a strange willingness to tear off the kid gloves and kick a friendly critic in the shins, then cut his head off. But Canada has a thing with young thug-critics making a name for themselves by arm-wrestling in bars. Figuratively. Sort of.

I only mention this now because our main thesis of selection for this book he reviled was an internationalism moving beyond parochial Canadian concerns (landscape, especially).

Anyway the other day Mr Mooney's new anthology arrived from Toronto, called BEST CANADIAN POETRY 2015 (IN ENGLISH) - caps mine but hey again - and I was in this two times in its brief life so am pleased but hey again (thrice).... and can you guess what Mr Mooney's main thesis is?

We must move to a "post-Canadian" kind of poetry.... which, yes, you guessed it... is exemplified by the sort of complex, smart international poetry written by A.F. Moritz (who we highlighted in our anthology).

So anyway, this goes to confirm what Evan and I felt then - Canadian poetry remains behind the times, parochial, backwards, and mired in local tribal squabbles of little global import. Want to wrestle with me Jacob?

Oh, his third book is out soon, and I assume will be quite good.


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Wheeler Light currently lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Life Jacket

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With the death of the poetic genius John Ashbery, whose poems, translations, and criticism made him, to my mind, the most influential American poet since TS Eliot, 21st century poetry is moving into less certain territory.

Over the past few years, we have lost most of the truly great of our era: Edwin Morgan, Gunn, Hill, Heaney and Walcott, to name just five.  There are many more, of course. This is news too sad and deep to fathom this week.  I will write more perhaps later. 

I had a letter from Ashbery on my wall, and it inspired me daily.  He gave me advice for my PhD. He said kind things about a poetry book of mine.

He was a force for good serious play in poetry, and his appeal great. So many people I know and admire are at a loss this week because of his death. It is no consolation at present to think of the many thousands of living poets, just right now. But impressively, and even oddly, poetry itself seems to keep flowing.