Jason Camlot examines some of the difficulties inherent in defining the poetry of Quebec’s English-speaking minority: “What is minor, what is major, what marginal, what central, in a twenty-first century context that has us wirelessly connected and mobile mediated across great divides?”
In the mid-1950s, Montreal was the largest city in Canada, and its English-language poets like F.R Scott, Louis Dudek and Irving Layton were key figures in Canadian poetry. Twenty years later, Camlot argues, most Anglo-Quebec poets were not as confident as their predecessors about their relative significance on the national stage. They increasingly defined themselves on the cultural margins. Defining English Quebec poetry became more complicated due to the strange minority/majority status of English in Quebec, the growing ethnic multiplicity among English-speakers, and the historical conditions that continue to politicize the English language in Quebec.
Many poets situate themselves within a hybrid conception of culture as an alternative to bilingual multiculturalism or French integration nationalism. On this subject, scholar Sherry Simon speaks of an “écriture hybride.” This is a “mode of writing marked by the dissonant effects of unrealized translation, unusual syntax, disparate vocabulary, and a general interrogation of naturalizing tropes of linguistic mastery of cultural belonging.”
Jason Camlot at Concordia University, November 30, 2017.
Jason Camlot, PhD, is a poet and professor in the Department of English at Concordia University, Montreal. His first collection of poetry was nominated for the A.M. Klein prize for poetry in 2000. He has also examined the evolution of Anglo-Quebec poetry in Language Acts, a collection of essays that he co-edited.
Camlot, Jason. “(Im)Possible Conditions: Anglo-Quebec Poetry/La Poésie Anglo-Québécoise.” Canadian Poetry No. 64 (Spring/Summer 2009): 5–22.
Camlot, Jason and Todd Swift (editors). Language Acts. Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century. Montreal: Véhicule Press, 2007.
Irvine, Dean (editor). The Canadian Modernists Meet. Ottawa, ON: University of Ottawa Press, 2005.
Ringuet, Chantal, and Gérard Rabinovitch, eds. Les révolutions de Leonard Cohen. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2016.
Simon, Sherry. Translating Montreal: Episodes in the Life of a Divided City. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006.
Souaid, Carolyn Marie and Endre Farkas (editors). Language Matters: Interviews with 22 Quebec Poets. Winnipeg, MB: Signature Editions, 2013
…or read more about Anglo-Quebec poetry in our bibliography.