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era. Investigating that larger issue led me to consider an array of more specific topics that can help shape our ideas of the postwar Canadian modernism spearheaded by Al Purdy, John Newlove, Andrew Suknaski, Barry McKinnon, and Margaret Atwood: the continued attraction to the lyric mode in the postwar years, lyric poets’ representation of authority and modernist skepticism in historically informed writing, the conscious experiments with what I’ve termed lyric historiography in the years leading up to and following the 1967 Centennial, and the related transformations of content (different approaches to or conceptions of usable histories) and structure (different poetic forms and representations of lyric) in Canadian modernist poetry during this same era. These were the chief issues and internal developments of lyric historiography during its formative years. In order to contextualize the appeal of this modernist mode and authors’ connections to one another, this study explored the various historical crises and poetics that made the cultural relevance of lyric historiography obvious to postwar audiences. In Chapter One, I demonstrated the incredible diversity of ways in which and reasons for which the idea of “history” permeated political, cultural, social, and literary discourses in Canada. On a massive scale, attitudes toward traditional Canadian history began to change around this time, which gave rise to a general distrust of the Anglocentric narratives of the nation that had become conventional. Movements centred on concepts of
355 decolonization, feminism, Black Power, Red Power, education, multiple interpretations of nationalism, and leftism proved these conventional narratives unsustainable. By the middle of the 1960s, historians, writers, cultural workers, and political activists were beginning to call for more inclusive and diverse depictions of the national past. These calls not only shaped historical discourses after 1967, but they also ensured a readership and financial backing for poets who were already demonstrating their willingness to engage with Canadian history in their poetry. Specifically because Purdy’s historically conscious writing predates—if only by a few years—many of the historical events I discussed in Chapter One, I positioned him in Chapter Two as the unwitting figurehead of a modernist poetics that foregrounded the search for more sustainable or desirable Canadian historical narratives in poetry. I pinpointed 1962 as a definitive year in Purdy’s experiments with this poetics: this year marked an arguable end to his poetic apprenticeship under Irving Layton and other modernist poets, as well as his mindful development of a style attentive to his apparently inborn historical consciousness. By 1962, Purdy had outgrown his imitative and derivative romantic style, and he had, in essays and poems from that year or thereabouts, also begun to distinguish himself from what he called “the old poetry” in Canada: the writing that, as Purdy saw it, was inattentive to the richness of the national past. 1962 was