Davey, Frank(land Wilmot)

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DAVEY, Frank(land Wilmot)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Vancouver, British Columbia, 19 April 1940. Education: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, 1957–63, B.A. (honors) 1961, M.A. 1963; University of Southern California, Los Angeles (Canada Council fellow), 1965–68, Ph.D.1968. Family: 1) Helen Simmons in 1962 (divorced 1969); 2) Linda McCartney in 1969, one son and one daughter. Career: Teaching assistant, University of British Columbia, 1961–63; lecturer, 1963–66, and assistant professor, 1967–69, Royal Roads Military College, Victoria, British Columbia; writer-in-residence, Sir George Williams University, Montreal, 1969–70; assistant professor, 1970–72, associate professor, 1972–79, coordinator of the creative writing program, 1976–79, professor of English, 1980–90, and chair of the department of English, 1985–90, York University, Toronto. Since 1990 Carl F. Klinck Professor of Canadian Literature, University of Western Ontario, London. Visiting professor, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, Karnatak University, India, 1982. Founding editor, Tish magazine, Vancouver, 1961–63. Since 1965 founding editor, Open Letter, Toronto; general editor, Quebec Translations series, 1973–90, and since 1975 member of the editorial board, Coach House Press, Toronto; since 1977 general editor, New Canadian Criticism series, Talonbooks, Vancouver; director, Swift Current literary database and magazine project, 1984–90. President, the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, 1994–96. Awards: Macmillan prize, 1962; Department of National Defence arts research grant, 1965, 1966, 1968; Humanities Research Council of Canada grant, 1974, 1981; Canada Council travel grant, 1966, 1971, 1973, and fellowship, 1966, 1974; Canadian Federation for the Humanities grant, 1979 and 1992; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council fellowship, 1981. Address: University of Western Ontario, Department of English, London, Ontario N6A 3K7, Canada.



D-Day and After. Vancouver, Tishbooks, 1962.

City of the Gulls and Sea. Privately printed, 1964.

Bridge Force. Toronto, Contact Press, 1965.

The Scarred Hull. Calgary, Imago, 1966.

Four Myths for Sam Perry. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1970.

Weeds. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1970.

Griffon. Toronto, Massasauga, 1972.

King of Swords. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1972.

L'An Trentiesme: Selected Poems 1961–1970. Vancouver, Community Press, 1972.

Arcana. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1973.

The Clallam; or, Old Glory in Juan de Fuca. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1973.

War Poems. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1979.

The Arches: Selected Poems, edited by B.P. Nichol. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1980.

Capitalistic Affection! Toronto, Coach House Press, 1982.

Edward and Patricia. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1984.

The Louis Riel Organ and Piano Company. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Turnstone Press, 1985.

The Abbotsford Guide to India. Victoria, British Columbia, Press Porcépic, 1986.

Postcard Translations. Toronto, Underwhich, 1988.

Popular Narratives. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1991.


Five Readings of Olson's "Maximus." Montreal, Beaver Kosmos, 1970.

Earle Birney. Toronto, Copp Clark, 1971.

From There to Here: A Guide to English-Canadian Literature since 1960. Erin, Ontario, Press Porcépic, 1974.

Louis Dudek and Raymond Souster. Vancouver, Douglas and McIntyre, 1980; Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1981.

Surviving the Paraphrase: Essays on Canadian Literature. Winnipeg, Turstone Press, 1983.

Margaret Atwood: A Feminist Poetics. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1984.

Reading Canadian Reading. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Turnstone Press, 1988.

Post-National Arguments: The Politics of the Anglophone-Canadian Novel Since 1967. Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1993.

Reading "KIM" Right. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1993.

Literary Power: Essays on Anglophone-Canadian Literary Conflict. Edmonton, NeWest Press, 1994.

Karla's Web: A Cultural Examination of the Mahaffy-French Murders. Toronto, Viking/Penguin, 1994; revised edition, 1995.

Cultural Mischief: A Practical Guide to Multiculturalism. Burnaby, British Columbia, Talonbooks, 1996.

Editor, Tish 1–19. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1975.

Editor, Mrs. Dukes' Million, by Wyndham Lewis. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1977.

Editor, The Browser's Opal L. Nations. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1981.

Editor, Given Names: New and Selected Poems 1972–1985, by Judith Fitzgerald. Coatsworth, Ontario, Black Moss Press, 1985.

Editor, with Fred Wah, The Swiftcurrent Anthology. Toronto, Coach House Press, 1986.

Editor, Deeds/Nations, by Greg Curnoe. London, ON, London Chapter of the Ontario Archeological Society, 1994.


Manuscript Collection: Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.

Critical Studies: Interviews with Elizabeth Komisar in White Pelican (Edmonton, Alberta), 1975, George Bowering in Open Letter (Toronto), 4(3), Spring 1979, Gale Scott, in Spirale (Montreal), 1981, and Fred Gaysek, in Artviews (Toronto), 1988; "Frank Davey: Finding Your Voice to Say What Must Be Said" by Douglas Barbour, in Brave New Wave edited by Jack David, Windsor, Ontario, Black Moss Press, 1978; "Frank Davey, Critic As Autobiographer" by E.D. Blodgett, and "War Poetry: Fears of Referentiality" by Lynette Hunter, both in Beyond Tish, edited by Douglas Barbour, Edmonton, NeWest Press, 1991; "Nobody Gets Hurt Bullfighting Canadian Style: Rereading Frank Davey's 'Surviving the Paraphrase'" by Robert Lecker, in Studies in Canadian Literature 18(3), 1993; "Post-National Arguments: The Politics of the Anglophone-Canadian Novel since 1967" by C. Hunter, in Ariel, 25(3), 1994; "Mastering the Mother Tongue: Reading Frank Davey Reading Daphne Marlatt's How Hug a Stone" by Julie Beddoes, in Canadian Literature, 155, Winter 1997; "The Presumption of Culture and Ideas of North: A Reply to Frank Davey" by T. Henighan, in English Studies in Canada, 24(4), 1998.

Frank Davey comments:

Since 1964 my poetry has been written mostly in sequences of from ten to one hundred pages. I have been especially interested in the politics of the abrupt shifts of tone and diction that are possible between the sections of a serial poem and in the writing of European (King of Swords, Weeds) or United States (The Clallam, Capitalistic Affection!) mythology from a Canadian perspective. Recently I have been connected with the collapse of poetry as a socially instrumental discourse and have been experimenting with poems disguised as prose (The Abbotsford Guide to India). Most of my writing, verse or criticism, has been concerned with the decentralization of literary mythologies and the enabling and creation of alternative texts.

*  *  *

Frank Davey has managed to emerge with three careers: he is a poet who writes with some degree of originality and interest; he is a postmodernist critic in Canadian letters; and he is a social and cultural commentator with a sharp eye for the imagery of everyday life. The three careers could be couched in three different tenses—the past to refer to the poet, the present to refer to the critic, and the future to refer to the commentator—though that would lead one to the conclusion that the activities have been successive. Instead, they overlap.

As a poet Davey is best known for his espousal of the values of the Black Mountain school in Canada, introduced through the monthly mimeographed newsletter Tish, continued from 1965 through the triannual Open Letter, and embodied in his teaching and in articles, reviews, and the pages of From There to Here: A Guide to English-Canadian Literature since 1960, a once useful though quite opinionated handbook. His poetry, judged by L'An Trentiesme: Selected Poems 1961–1970 and Arcana, is not at all doctrinaire, contrary to what George Bowering is quoted as saying in From There to Here, but rather light and lyrical. As Davey himself says in "out &/on," a poem from the "Bridge Force" part of the selected poems, "description / is a bird who comes down / all too easy." Arcana includes occasional poems plus chic meditations on the tarot cards. On the basis of these works it could be maintained that Davey is essentially an occasional poet. Yet he has written semidocumentary, semilyrical poems on a number of marine disasters, culminating in The Clallam; or, Old Glory in Juan de Fuca, a long poem that successfully re-creates the sinking of the ship of that name. Perhaps his credo is best summed up in "The Mirror XIV" from Arcana:

          I write these words
   that someone, will remember me,
   or at least finding me here
   poisd, burnd, loved, unloved, will see words

With later books the reader senses that Davey, having decided to direct the Muse a bit in her deliberations, has engaged more than his sensibility. The Louis Riel Organ and Piano Company is a long, rambunctious poem full of humor and fine effect:

   What T.S. Eliot forgot
   was that Homer was just
   a small-town boy. James Joyce didn't forget.

Capitalistic Affection!—note the exclamation mark—is a loving and nostalgic look at comic book and other characters of contemporary mythology as figures of fun but also as guides and guardians of morality: "What Chester Gould told me / was that all criminals have ugly faces." In that context the collection's Canadian literature sequence simply seems out of place.

The liveliest of all of Davey's books is Edward and Patricia, a riotously funny sequence of poems about early married life. For its pinpointing of the niceties and naughtiness that characterize the days and nights of the contemporary urban couple, Davey deserves a prize from John Updike.

Davey must have cheered the day the term "postmodernism" surfaced, because with it came a theory, or set of considerations, that would enable him to organize longtime concerns. These include continuity and discontinuity in life and art, personality and impersonality in literary works, the interactivity of the whole and the part, and self-reference.

In 1990 Davey was appointed to the Carl F. Klinck chair as professor of Canadian literature at the University of Western Ontario in London. During this period he wrote a literary-social-critical study of Prime Minister Kim Campbell, comparing her to the heroine of Anne of Green Gables, and a widely discussed consideration of the effects of censorship, based on the notion of prior restraint, in contemporary society.

—John Robert Colombo

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