Mayne, Seymour

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MAYNE, Seymour

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Montreal, Quebec, 18 May 1944. Education: McGill University, Montreal (Chester Macnaghten Prize, 1962), B.A. (honors) 1965; University of British Columbia, Vancouver, M.A. 1966, Ph.D. 1972. Career: Lecturer, Jewish Institute, Montreal, 1964, and University of British Columbia, 1972. Lecturer, 1972, assistant professor 1973–78, associate professor, 1978–85, and since 1985 professor of English, University of Ottawa. Visiting professor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1979–80, 1983–84, and Concordia University, Montreal, 1982–83; writer-in-residence, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, winter 1987–88; visiting professor, University of La Laguna, Spain, spring 1993. Co-editor, Cataract, Montreal, 1961–62; poetry editor, Forge, Montreal, 1961–62; editor, The Page, 1962–63, and Catapult, Montreal, 1964; managing editor, Very Stone House, Vancouver, 1966–69; poetry editor, Ingluvin, 1970–71, and managing editor, Ingluvin Publications, 1970–73, Montreal; editor, Mosaic Press, Oakville, Ontario, 1974–82, Jewish Dialog, Toronto, 1974–81, and Stoney Monday, Ottawa, 1978. Contributing editor, 1982–90, and poetry editor, 1990–95, Viewpoints, Montreal; contributing editor, Tel Aviv Review, 1989–96; founder and consulting editor, Bywords, Ottawa, since 1990; founder and editorial board member, Parchment, London, Ontario, since 1992; consulting editor, Poet Lore, Bethesda, Maryland, since 1992; founder and consulting editor, Graffito, Ottawa, since 1994; and contributing editor, Jerusalem Review, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, since 1997. Awards: Canada Council bursary, 1969, and grant, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1984; Ontario Arts Council grant, 1974, 1976, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1992, 1994; Segal prize, 1974; York Poetry Workshop award, 1975; American Literary Translators Association Poetry Translation award, 1990; Jewish Book Committee prize, 1994; Louis L. Lockshin memorial award, 1997. Address: Department of English, University of Ottawa, Ottawa K1N 6N5, Canada.



That Monocycle the Moon. Montreal, Catapult, 1964.

Tiptoeing on the Mount. Montreal, McGill, 1965; revised edition, Montreal, Catapult, 1965.

From the Portals of Mouseholes. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1966.

I Am Still the Boy. Vancouver, Western Press, 1967.

Ticklish Ticlicorice. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

The Gigolo Teaspoon. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

Earseed. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

Anewd. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

Mutetations. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

Manimals (includes prose). Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1969.

Mouth. Kingston, Ontario, Quarry Press, 1970.

For Stems of Light. Vernon, British Columbia, Very Stone House, 1971; revised edition, Ottawa, Valley, 1974.

Face. Burnaby, British Columbia, Blackfish, 1971.

Name. Erin, Ontario, Press Porcépic, 1975; revised edition, Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1976.

Diasporas. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1977.

Begging. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1977.

Racoon. Ottawa, Valley, 1979.

Abel and Cain. Jerusalem, Sifrei HaEmek, 1980.

The Impossible Promised Land: Poems New and Selected. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1981.

Seven Poems. Toronto, League of Canadian Poets, 1983.

Neighbour Praying. Jerusalem, Sifrei HaEmek, 1984.

Vanguard of Dreams: New and Selected Poems. Tel Aviv, Sifriat Poalim, 1984.

Crazy Leonithas. Ottawa, Valley, 1985.

Two Poems. Privately printed, 1985.

Children of Abel (includes prose). Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1986.

Diversions. Ottawa, Noovo Masheen Press, 1987.

Down Here. Ottawa, Tree, 1990.

Six Ottawa Poets, with others. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1990.

Simple Ceremony. Tel Aviv, Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1990.

Killing Time. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1992.

Locust of Silence: New and Selected Poems. Tel Aviv, Iton 77, 1993.

The Song of Moses and Other Poems. Ottawa, Concertina, and London, Menard Press, 1995.

Five-O'Clock Shadows, with others. Toronto, Letters Bookshop, 1996.

Dragon Trees. Ottawa, Friday Circle Chapbook Series, 1997.

City of the Hidden. Tel Aviv, Gjanim, 1998.

Carbon Filter: Poems in Dedication. Toronto, Paris, and New York, Mosaic Press, 1999.


Editor, with Patrick Lane, Collected Poems of Red Lane. Vancouver, Very Stone House, 1968.

Editor, with Victor Coleman, Poetry of Canada. Buffalo, Intrepid Press, 1969.

Editor, with Dorothy Livesay, Forty Women Poets of Canada. Montreal, Ingluvin, 1971.

Editor, Engagements: The Prose of Irving Layton. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1972.

Editor, Cutting the Keys. Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 1975.

Editor, Splices. Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 1975.

Editor, The A.M. Klein Symposium. Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 1975.

Editor, Choice Parts. Ottawa, University of Ottawa, 1976.

Editor, Irving Layton: The Poet and His Critics. Toronto, McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1978.

Editor and Co-Translator, Generations: Selected Poems, by Rachel Korn. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1982.

Editor, Essential Words: An Anthology of Jewish Canadian Poetry. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1985.

Editor and Co-Translator, Crossing the River: Selected Poems, by Moshe Dor. Oakville, Mosaic Press, 1989.

Co-editor, At the Edge: Canadian Literature and Culture at Century's End. Jerusalem, Magnes Press, 1995.

Co-editor, Jerusalem: An Anthology of Jewish Canadian Poetry. Montreal, Véhicule Press, 1996.

Co-editor, A.M. Klein, Selected Poems. Toronto, Buffalo, New York, and London, University of Toronto Press, 1997.

Co-editor, A Rich Garland: Poems for A.M. Klein. Montreal, Véhicule Press, 1999.

Translator, with Catherine Leach, Genealogy of Instruments, by Jerzy Harasymowicz. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1974.

Translator, Burnt Pearls: Ghetto Poems of Abraham Sutzkever. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1982.

Translator, with Laya Firestone-Seghi and Howard Schwartz, Jerusalem as She Is: New and Selected Poems, by Schlomo Vinner. Kansas City, BkMk Press, 1991.

Translator, with Rivka Augenfeld, Night Prayer and Other Poems by Melech Ravitch. Oakville, Mosaic Press, 1993.

Translator, with Jaroslaw Sokol, I Live on a Raft, by Jerzy Harasymowicz. Ottawa, Concertina, 1994.


Manuscript Collections: National Archives of Canada, Ottawa; University of Ottawa; Canadiana Collection, Jewish Public Library, Montreal; Jewish National and University Library, Jerusalem.

Critical Studies: By Peter Stevens, in Canadian Forum (Toronto), March 1968; "Other Vancouverites" by A.W. Purdy, in Canadian Literature 35 (Vancouver), winter 1968; "New Poetry of the East" by Tom Marshall, in New: American and Canadian Poetry 15 (Trumansburg, New York), April-May 1971; by Greg Gatenby, in English Quarterly (Waterloo, Ontario), winter 1975–76; by Aviva Layton, in Quill and Quire (Toronto), December 1978; by Kenneth Sherman, in Canadian Literature 80 (Vancouver), spring 1979; by Mervin Butovsky, in Jewish Book Annual, New York, Jewish Book Council, 1982; by Anita Norich, in Shdemot 18 (Tel Aviv), 1982; by John Oughton, in Books in Canada (Toronto), March 1982; by Bert Almon, in Choice (Middletown, Connecticut), July-August 1982; by Michael Thorpe, in Canadian Literature 95 (Vancouver), winter 1982; by Tony Cosier, in Canadian Materials, March 1986; by Marya Fiamengo, in Canadian Literature 112 (Vancouver), spring 1987; by Harry Prest, in University of Windsor Review (Ontario), 20(1), fall-winter 1987; by Shloime Perel, in Small Press Review (Paradise, California), November 1987; by Roslyn Lester and Adam G. Fuerstenberg, both in Canadian Ethnic Studies (Montreal), 21(1), 1989; by Aloma Halter, in The Jerusalem Post Magazine (Jerusalem), June 1990; by Michael Greenstein, in Ariel: A Review of International English Literature (Calgary), 23(2), April 1992; by Shmuel Shatal, in Al Hamishmar (Tel Aviv), June 1993, and Hadoar (New York), January 1994; by Y. Ben-David, in Iton 77 (Tel Aviv), May-June 1993; by Adam G. Fuerstenberg, in Journal of Canadian Poetry (Ottawa), 9, 1994; "Seymour Mayne: A Modernist Bard" by Tibor Krausz, in Canadian Jewish News, 16 July 1998; "Citizen of Two Worlds" by Mark Elliott Shapiro, in Ha'Aretz Magazine, 13 November 1998.

Seymour Mayne comments:

What I have to say about poetry is written into the poems and titles of my books. I have learned from Hebrew liturgy and prayer and the early study of biblical poetry.

*  *  *

In "Seymour's Similies," a section of his book Craft Slices (1985), George Bowering caught in one line an essential characteristic of the life and work of Seymour Mayne: "The writer is pleading for the poetical." Bowering did not use the word "poet," but rather the word "writer." Behind that choice of words there may lurk the sense that, while Mayne writes respectable and responsible poems, he is not a natural, lyrical poet in the sense that Irving Layton or Leonard Cohen, two bards from Mayne's Montreal, are lyrical poets. Bowering also used the verb "pleading." One senses that there lurks behind many of the poems the figure of a man beseeching, sometimes hectoring, the reader to agree with him. Someone is trying very hard because the stakes are so high. Finally, there are Bowering's words "the poetical." In his writings Mayne yearns for an epiphany, for the advent of the poetical as an experience that is perhaps above and beyond the poem.

Mayne has indeed been very busy. He has edited several little magazines and founded two private presses, Very Stone House and Ingluvin Press, and he helped as well to establish Mosaic Press—Valley Editions. He is a recognized commentator on the work of A.M. Klein and Irving Layton, he has taken an active part in drawing attention to Jewish writing in Canada, and he has translated the writings of Jewish writers from eastern and central Europe.

Mayne's principal publication is Mouth, a full—length collection of miscellaneous poems, some of which chart the relationship of various bodily orifices and, in a Freudian fashion, find a link between or among them. He writes in "Fang of Light," "and make the mouth /one vibrating hoop /of his whole /orificial self." The mood and image are there, but the language, especially the diction, is mixed and not always specific or emotional.

Contradictory themes emerge in Mayne's poetry, and these include human desire as against bodily guilt and human transcendence as against whimsical reasonableness or ironic insight. Perhaps his poetry will pass through a religious or spiritual reconciliation of these opposites. The necessary drive is there, for the poet writes in "You Don't Scream,"

Tear yourself away.
Bleed, if you must.
A fever will rise in your eyes
and burn like a need.

—John Robert Colombo