Waddington, Miriam

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Nationality: Canadian. Born: Miriam Dworkin, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 23 December 1917. Education: Machray School, Winnipeg; Lisgar Institute, Ottawa; University of Toronto, B.A. 1939, diploma in social work 1942, M.A. 1968; University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, M.S.W. 1945. Family: Married Patrick Donald Waddington in 1939 (divorced 1965); two sons. Career: Caseworker, Jewish Family Service, Toronto, 1942–44, 1957–60, and Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, 1944–45; assistant director, Jewish Child Welfare Bureau, Montreal, 1945–46; lecturer and supervisor, McGill School of Social Work, Montreal, 1946–49; caseworker, Montreal Children's Hospital Speech Clinic, 1950–52, and John Howard Society, 1955–57; staff member, Montreal Children's Hospital, 1952–54; supervisor, North York Family Service, 1960–62. Member of the English Department, 1964–73, professor of literature, 1973–83, and since 1983 emeritus professor, York University, Toronto. Writer-inresidence, University of Ottawa, 1974, Windsor Public Library, 1983, and Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, 1986. Advisory editor, Journal of the Otto Rank Association, 1973–83; poetry editor, Poetry Toronto, 1981–82. Awards: Canada Council fellowship, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1979; J.I. Segal award, 1973, 1987. D.Litt.: Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, 1975; York University, 1985. Address: Department of English, York University, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada.



Green World. Montreal, First Statement Press, 1945.

The Second Silence. Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1955.

The Season's Lovers. Toronto, Ryerson Press, 1958.

The Glass Trumpet. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1966.

Call Them Canadians. Ottawa, Queen's Printers and National FilmBoard, 1968.

Say Yes. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1969.

Dream Telescope. London, Anvil Press Poetry, 1972.

Driving Home: Poems New and Selected. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1972; London, Anvil Press Poetry, 1973.

The Price of Gold. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1976.

Mister Never. Winnipeg, Turnstone Press, 1978.

The Visitants. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1981; New York, Oxford University Press, 1982.

Collected Poems. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1986.

The Last Landscape. Toronto and Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.

Canada: Romancing the Land. Toronto, Key Porter Books, 1996.


Radio Documentaries: Chekov, 1958; Poe, 1962.

Short Stories

Summer at Lonely Beach: Selected Short Stories. Oakville, Ontario, Mosaic Press, 1982.


A.M. Klein. Toronto, Copp Clark, 1970.

The Function of Folklore in the Poetry of A.M. Klein (lecture). St. John's, Newfoundland, Memorial University, 1983.

Apartment 7: Essays New and Selected. Toronto, Oxford University Press, 1989.

Cercando Fragole in Giugno E Altre Poesie (in Italian and English). Bologna, CLUEB, 1993.

Editor, Essays, Poems, Controversies, by John Sutherland. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, 1973.

Editor, The Collected Poems of A.M. Klein. Toronto, McGraw Hill Ryerson, and New York, McGraw Hill, 1974.


Bibliography: By Laurie Ricou, in The Annotated Bibliography of Canada's Major Authors 6, edited by Robert Lecker and Jack David, Toronto, ECW Press, 1985.

Manuscript Collection: Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa.

Critical Studies: "The Lyric Craft of Miriam Waddington" by Ian Sowton, in Dalhousie Review (Halifax, Nova Scotia), summer 1958; "Into My Green World: The Poetry of Miriam Waddington" by Laurence R. Ricou, in Essays on Canadian Writing (Toronto), fall 1978; Twelve Voices by Jon Pearce, Ottawa, Borealis Press, 1980; Miriam Waddington by Cathy Matyas, Toronto, Dundurn Press, 1982; Miriam Waddington and Her Work by Peter Stevens, Toronto, ECW Press, 1984; "Miriam Waddington: An Afternoon" by Marvyne Jenoff, in Waves (Richmond Hill, Ontario), 14(1–2), fall 1985; Transformation Poetics: Refiguring the Female Subject in the Early Poetry and Life Writing of Dorothy Livesay and Miriam Waddington (dissertation), York University, 1997.

Miriam Waddington comments:

About my poetry: the key to it is the language. My Canadian English takes its cue from the prairies where I was born and conceals more than it reveals. Some concealments: the social, mythic, and linguistic reverberations of the Yiddish and Russian cultures of my childhood, plus the austerity and Scottish accents of my early teachers.

*  *  *

In the early 1940s there were few opportunities in Canada to publish a book of poetry. Miriam Waddington's first collection, Green World, was published by John Sutherland's First Statement Press in Montreal, where two active literary groups were about to launch the magazines First Statement and Preview. These writers wanted to see an end to the colonial attitudes that had dominated Canadian writing through the Canadian Authors Association publication Canadian Poetry Magazine.

Between the appearance of Green World in 1943 and Collected Poems in 1986, Waddington published ten books of poetry. Sharp observation, wit, and compassion have remained constant. A change to short lines in The Glass Trumpet was unconscious and connected with new ways of looking at the world, a matter of zeitgeist, the poet says. Using spaces instead of commas was deliberate and concerned the appearance of a poem on the page. She later began to like commas again, her wish for precise meaning taking precedence.

Early poems were about birth, mothering, and love, with a few poems about social issues. But with degrees in social work, Waddington became involved with the deprived and dispossessed, and she turned her poetry to subjects of social significance. She met and became fast friends with Dorothy Livesay, who had "ignored maple leaves" to write about the desperate condition of people caught in a social revolution. Waddington became a compassionate outsider who saw more and more human misery in her work. As time went on, she wrote more frequently about courts and prisons, and with the publication of The Season's Lovers she realized that she was not in the mainstream of Canadian literature because her poetry could not be called metaphysical and mythic. The Season's Lovers dealt with "the realities of crippled lives, poverty, and the strange innocence of the weak and rejected."

The exploration of what it means to be Canadian has been a favorite theme of Waddington's. Driving Home: Poems New and Selected contains many poems examining her identity as a Canadian, including the following:

Here are
our signatures:
geese fish eskimo
faces girl-guide
cookies ink-drawings
tree-plantings summer
storms and winter
We look
like a geography
but just scratch us
and we bleed like
history are full
of modest misery
to double-talk
(and double-cross)
in a country
too wide
to be single in.

Waddington says in the afterword to Collected Poems that her attitude to poetry is the same as it was fifty years earlier when she wrote in the 1938 poem "Unheard Melodies,"

I the tender and brooding outsider
Concern myself with subtle melodies
Fashioning usual themes
In unknown obscure lives.

—Patience Wheatley