Articles & Reviews

Review of CIV/n. A Literary Magazine of the 50s

CIV/n. A Literary Magazine of the 50s
Edited by Aileen Collins
Vehicule Press, 1983

By Stephen Morrissey
Poetry Montreal, March 1984

"Civ/n is not a one man job"
—Ezra Pound, referring to "civilization", in a letter to Louis Dudek

CIV/n. A Literary Magazine of the 50s is a handsome book reproducing all seven issues that were published of the poetry magazine CIV/n, as well as including an Introduction by the magazine's editor Aileen Collins; an essay "Recalling the 50s" by Irving Layton; photographs Montreal poets; reproductions of letters from Charles Olson and Raymond Souster; an essay on "The Significance of "Contact" and "ClV/n" by Ken Norris; and an Index to CIV/n, by Michael Gnarowski, which is unfortunately not paginated to the Vehicule volume.

But most importantly, we have the poems and a certain attitude to poetry that CIV/n still communicates; this is an attitude of excitement, that poetry is important, that the magazine is serious. This attitude, in itself, is not enough to make CIV/n the important little mag that it was. Perhaps the timing was right, the poetry community in Montreal was ready to place its energy in a new little magazine. First Statement magazine had folded and Louis Dudek's "Delta" magazine would not appear for a few more years. English Montreal has an important history of publishing poetry and producing poets. Modernism in Canada began in Montreal in the 1920 s and 1930s. We have always been a city of poets, publishers of poetry magazines, as well as organizers of poetry readings. There is something positive and creative about the juxtaposition of different cultures that is important to English Montreal poetry. What CIV/n also had was excellent editing, a policy of publishing at an international level (for instance, we have poems by Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Cid Corman and other American and British poets in the pages CIV/n), as well as the presence of Dudek, Layton and Raymond Souster in the background,

No one knows what the future of English poetry will be in Montreal. Perhaps, as a result of Bill 101, new Canadians in Montreal will be writing poetry in the French language. Personally, I am not worried. We have a long tradition of writing poetry and new poets are appearing on the English-speaking Montreal poetry scene regularly. CIV/n was an exceptional little magazine as these reprints show us. The magazine is still better than many little mags being published in Canada today. CIV/n is still good reading almost thirty years after it ceased publication.

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