Cover image for Selected poems
Selected poems
Pratt, E. J. (Edwin John), 1882-1964.
Publication Information:
Toronto : University of Toronto Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxxi, 239 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR9199.3.P7 A6 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The purpose of The Selected Poems of E.J. Pratt is to introduce Pratt's poems to the college and university student, to provide the kind of information needed for an informed reading of the poems. The volume offers a full sampling of Pratt's poems chosen on the joint basis of representativeness and intrinsic value. This includes the major long poems, The Witches' Brew, The Iron Door, The Titanic, BrTbeuf and His Brethren, Towards the Last Spike, and important shorter lyrics including 'Newfoundland,' 'Come Away, Death,' and 'From Stone to Steel.'

The editorial approach has been historical, chronological and biographical. The introduction locates Pratt in his Newfoundland and Canadian contexts and discusses the development of his work in terms of his early modernist contemporaries, concluding that E.J. Pratt remains the most important and influential Canadian poet up to the mid-fifties. As such, he has been an key figure in shaping the Canadian literary imagination of his day and the later poetics of landscape adopted by Earle Birney and Margaret Atwood.

The reader is provided with annotations, textual notes, a biographical chronology, and an introduction which locates Pratt in his Newfoundland and Canadian contexts and discusses the development of his work in terms of his modernist contemporaries. The printed volumes is supplemented by the electronic resources of the Selected Pratt website at

Author Notes

E. J. Pratt is considered to be the poet who initiated the Canadian modernist movement. Yet, unlike his literary contemporaries, Pratt was attracted to the convention of epic poetry: Brebeuf and His Brethren (1940) and Towards the Last Spike (1952) are impressive examples of this style and are also ambitious attempts to forge a national mythology through verse. Edwin John Pratt was born at Western Bay, Newfoundland. As he grew up in this desolate coastal town, Pratt's association with the sea impressed him with an image that would later reverberate throughout his poetry. Although trained as a Methodist minister, Pratt evidently experienced a crisis of faith following his studies in philosophy and psychology at the University of Toronto, where he received a Ph.D. in theology. In 1920, largely because of his promise as a poet, he was given an English professorship at Victoria College, University of Toronto, a post from which he retired in 1953. Pratt's verse is aptly described by E. K. Brown as the "work of an experimenter who is continuing to clutch at a tradition although that tradition is actually stifling him."

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Pratt is the traditional starting point for modern Canadian poetry. Canada had numerous poets before him, but Pratt's poems about a century when "New life ... leapt among the dials" became a signpost for locating the separation of Canadian poetry from English writing. Readers can follow this book's cairn of 27 selected poems and discover the milieu of Robertson Davies, Margaret Atwood, and Northrop Frye and discern the emerging shape of intellectual life in the 20th century everywhere, not just in Canada or Pratt's Newfoundland birthplace. The latest poetic map of the winds and drifts after WW I, this collection is accompanied by a fine introduction, a few notes, a two-page bibliography, and a chronology. The present volume works well, but to fully situate the book's selections, readers should explore the cornerstone of Pratt studies, David Pitt's two-volume biography E.J. Pratt, the Truant Years, 1882-1927 (CH, Feb'85) and E.J. Pratt, the Master Years, 1927-1964 (CH, Sep'88); E.J. Pratt: Complete Poems, ed. by Djwa and Gordon Moyles (CH, Sep'89); volumes of Pratt's prose, poems, and correspondence; and The Selected Poems of E.J. Pratt at . Recommended for all poetry collections, but especially undergraduate and public collections supporting the humanities in Canada and the Commonwealth. R. H. Solomon; formerly, University of Alberta