Outram, Richard 1930-2005

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OUTRAM, Richard 1930-2005

(Richard Daley Outram)

PERSONAL: Born 1930, in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada; died of suicide by hypothermia January 21, 2005, in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada; son of Alfred Allan (an engineer) and Mary Muriel (Daley) Outram; married Barbara Howard (a painter and wood engraver), 1957. Education: Victoria College, University of Toronto, B.A. (with honors; English and philosophy), 1953.

CAREER: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Toronto, Ontario, began as stagehand, became stage crew foreman, 1953–54, 1957–90; British Broadcasting Corporation, London, England, stagehand, 1955–56; Gauntlet Press, Toronto, cofounder, 1960s.

AWARDS, HONORS: Toronto Book Award, 1999, for Benedict Abroad.



Eight Poems, Tortoise Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1959.

Exsultate, Jubilate, Macmillan (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1966.

Creatures, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1972.

Thresholds, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973.

Seer, illustrated by Barbara Howard, Aliquando Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1973.

Locus, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1974.

Turns and Other Poems, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1975.

Arbor, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1976.

The Promise of Light, Anson-Cartwright Editions (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1979.

Selected Poems, 1960–1980, Exile Editions (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1984.

Man in Love, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1985.

Hiram and Jenny, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1988.

Mogul Recollected, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Around and about the Toronto Islands, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Peripatetics, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Tradecraft, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1994.

Eros Descending, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.

Benedict Abroad, St. Thomas Poetry Series (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.

Dove Legend and Other Poems, Porcupine's Quill (Erin, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Ms. Cassie, Gauntlet Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.

Also published poems in broadsheets and booklets.

SIDELIGHTS: Canadian poet Richard Outram committed suicide at the age of seventy-four. Despondent over the tragic death of his wife, Barbara, an artist with whom he had collaborated over the years of their marriage, he walked out into the January Canadian winter and stayed there until he succumbed to hypothermia. The couple had left the bustle of Toronto to return to the more tranquil Port Hope, where Outram had grown up, just a few years earlier, soon after which Barbara died. Outram's grief never subsided. In a tribute to Outram for Bookninja online, a contributor called Outram "a generous mentor and poet of the highest order." About his suicide, the contributor wrote that Outram "held on quite a long time to make sure, and was in terrible pain during that time. I wish him well and hope he knows he's missed."

Outram was the maternal grandson of a Methodist minister who helped found the United Church in Canada. His paternal grandfather owned a hardware store in Port Hope, and his father, who was an engineer by profession, worked there as well. He met Mary Dailey, a schoolteacher, and they married and settled in Port Hope. After World War II, the family moved to Toronto, where Outram graduated from the University of Toronto. His instructors included philosopher Emil Fackenheim and Northrop Frye, with whom Outram studied the works of Milton, Spenser, and Shakespeare.

Outram worked for most of his life for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and retired in 1990 as a stage crew foreman. He began publishing his poems in the 1950s, both as collections and in small booklets and broadsides, the latter two primarily through Gauntlet Press, which he and Barbara began in the 1960s. They quickly established a reputation for the beauty and quality of their volumes.

Outram's Benedict Abroad received the Toronto Book Award in 1999. George Murphy wrote for the Maisonneuve Web site that the poems in this collection represent "Outram at his playful, farcical best. It is comedy and tragedy, bawdy and raucous, yet also something else entirely. Benedict Abroad is a difficult read. Whenever I pick it up, the book's highly allusive nature and skewed universe keep me off-kilter for days." In 2001 most of Outram's poems were gathered together in Dove Legend and Other Poems, a collection that reflects a dark view of death and mental instability. Ian Rae reviewed this collection in Canadian Literature, calling it "a complex assemblage of rare and invented nouns wired together with speech rhythms collected from a variety of dialects, discourses, and periods."

Peter Sanger wrote in the Antigonish Review online that "Outram's work transcends fashion, expressing a private voice of public consequence in poems of great formal variety and range of tone. He is a most mercurial writer, delighting in satire and farce, in low (sometimes quite low) and high comedy, in metaphysical poems of intricate philosophical complexity and dignity, in straightforward or not so straightforward lyrical love poems, and in dramatic soliloquys voiced for outrageously imagined characters." As Sanger concluded, "Imagine the greatest poets whom we have not read waiting for us to find them. We are still unformed. We have yet to make them out of ourselves. Such is the import and effect of Outram's achievement."



Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Sanger, Peter, Her Kindled Shadow: An Introduction to the Work of Richard Outram, Antigonish Review Press (Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada), 2001.


Canadian Literature, spring, 2004, Ian Rae, "Loving and Leaving," review of Dove Legend and Other Poems, p. 167.


Antigonish Review Online, http://www.antigonishreview.com/ (June 12, 2005), Peter Sanger, "Richard Outram: A Preface and Selection."

Maisonneuve Web site, http://www.maisonneuve.org/ (December 2, 2004), George Murray, "Collecting Outram."



Bookninja, http://www.bookninja.com/ (January 23, 2005).