Canadian Poets Poems

Canadian Poetry Famous Poets and Poems 

Canadian poets and poems

About Canadian Poetry:

If geography made for a distinctive kind of poetry it is certainly true of Australia and Canada in both of which the landscape and climate played an important part in shaping the poetry. If in Australia rock, desert and gum trees shaped the poetic imagination, in Canada it is the vast prairies, the freezing winter and the fierce summer. The prevalent notion about Canadian poetry for a long time was that it was a pale imitation of British Victorian verse trying to assert its independence from American poetry.

Interestingly, we are told by George Woodcock, one of Canada's most distinguished academics, that books of verse are more easily published in Canada than novels. And more poetry magazines and more sales with every passing year.

The modern movement in English Canadian poetry naturally began later than in French Canadian, thanks to the French symbolists who impinged on them sooner.

Women Canadian Poets:

The women poets like Margaret Avison, Anne Wilkinson and Margaret Atwood who together help to contribute to the impression that Canada has probably more women poets of distinction than any other country in the world today. The last one, Margaret Atwood, has reinforced her strong creative impulse with her fiction and criticism as well. 

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Famous Canadian Poets:

Some of the famous Canadian poets who contributed through their creative poems to Canadian Poetry are:

• Margaret Atwood 
• A.J.M Smith
• Robert Finch
• A.M. Klein 
• P. K. Page
• Wilfred Campbell 
• Charles Sangster
• Standish O' Grady
• Alexander McLachlan

Famous Canadian Poems:

■ Poems of Margaret Atwood 

Canadian poets

Journey to the Interior 

There are similarities 
I notice: that the hills
which the eyes make flat as a wall, welded
together, open as I move
to let me through; become 
endless as prairies; that the trees
grow spindly, have their roots
often in swamps; that this is a poor country;
that a cliff is not known 
as rough except by hand, and is 
therefore inaccessible. Mostly 
that travel is not the easy going 
from point to point, a dotted 
line on a map, location 
plotted on a square surface 
but that I move surrounded by a tangle 
of branches, a net of air and alternate 
light and dark, at all times;
that there are no destinations 
apart from this.

There are differences 
of course: the lack of reliable charts;
more important, the distraction of small details:
Your shoe among the brambles under the chair
where it shouldn't be; lucent 
while mushrooms and a paring knife
on the kitchen table; a sentence 
crossing my path, sodden as a fallen log
I'm sure I passed yesterday 
(have I been walking in circles again?)

but mostly the danger:
many have been here, but only 
some have returned safely. 
A compass is useless; also
trying to take directions 
from the movements of sun,
which are erratic;
and words here are as pointless 
as calling in a vacant
Whatever I do I must 
keep my head. I know 
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes. 

Poems of A. J. M. Smith

Canadian poets

Ode On the Death of William Butler Yeats 

An old thorn tree in a stony place
Where the mountain stream has run dry,
Torn in the black wind under the race
Of the icicle-sharp kaleidoscopic white sky,
Bursts into sudden flower.

Under the central dome of winter and night
A wild swan spreads his fantastic wing.
Ancestralled energy of blood and power
Beats in his sinews breast. And now revening
Soul, fulfilled, his first-last hour
Upon him, chooses to exult.

Over the edge of shivering Europe
Over the chalk front of Kent, over Eire,
Dwarfing the crawling waves' amoral savagery,
Daring the hiding clouds' rhetorical tumult, 
The white swan plummets the mountain top.

The stream has suddenly pushed the papery leaves!
It digs a rustling channel of clear water
On the scarred flank of Ben Bulben.
The twisted tree is incandescent with flowers. 
The swan leaps singing into the cold air;
This is a glory not for an hour.

Over the Galway shore 
The white bird is flying 
Forever, and crying 
To the tumultuous throng
Of the sky his cold and passionate song.

Like an Old Proud King in a Parable

A bitter king in anger to be gone 
From fawning courtier and doting queen 
Flung hollow sceptre and gilt crown away,
And breaking bound of all his counties green
He made a meadow in the northern stone
And breathed a palace of inviolable air
To cage a heart that carolled like a swan,
And slept alone, immaculate and gay,
With only his pride for a paramour. 

O who is that bitter king? It is not I.
Let me, I beseech thee, Father, die
From this fat royal life, and lie
As naked as a bridegroom by his bride, 
And let that girl be the cold goddess Pride.

And I will sing to the barren rock
Your difficult, lonely music, heart,
Like an old proud king in parable.

Poems of Robert Finch

Peacock and Nightingale 

Look at the eyes look from my tail!
What other eyes could look so well?
A peacock asks a Nightingale.

And how my feathers twist the sun!
Confess that no one, no, no one
Has ever seen such colour spun.

Who would not fall in ecstasy 
Before the gemmed enamelry
Of ruby-topaz-sapphire me?

When my proud tail parades its fan,
You, little bird, are merely an
Anachronism in its vain.

Let me advise that you be wise,
Avoid the vision of my eyes.
And then the nightingale replies. 

Poems of P. K. Page

Canadian poets and poems


In love they wore themselves in a green embrace.
A silken rain fell through the spring upon them.
In the park she fed the swans and he
Whittled nervously with his strange hands.
And white was mixed with all their colours 
as if they drew it from the flowering trees.

At night his two-finger whistle brought her down 
the waterfall stairs to his shy smile
which, like an eddy, turned her round and round
lazily and slowly so her will
was nowwhere - as in dreams things are and aren't. 

Walking along the avenues in the dark
street lamps sang like sopranos in their heads
with a violence they never understood 
and all their movements when they were together 

Only leaning into the question had they motion
after they parted were savage and swift as gulls.
Asking and asking the hostile emptiness
they were as sharp as partly sculptured stone
and all who watched, forgetting, were amazed 
to see them form and fade before their eyes.

First Neighbours 

The people I live among, unforgivingly
previous to me, grudging 
the way I breathe their 
property, the air,
speaking a twisted dialect to my differently -
shaped ears
though I tried to adapt 

(the girl in a red tattered
petticoat, who jeered at me for my burned bread

Go back where you came from

I tightened my lips; knew that England 
was now unreachable, had sunk down into the sea
without ever teaching me about washtubs)

Got used to being 
a minor invalid, expected to make
inept remarks,
futile and spastic gestures

(asked the Indian 
about the squat thing on a stick
drying by the fire: Is that a toad?
Annoyed, he said No no,
deer liver, very good)

Finally I grew a chapped tarpaulin 
skin; I negotiated the drizzle
of strange meaning, see it
down to just the latitude:
something to be endured
but not surprised by.

Inaccurate. The forest can still trick me:
one afternoon while I was drawing 
birds, a malignant face
flickered over my shoulder;
the branches quivered.
Resolve: to be both tentative and hard to startle 
(though clumsiness and fright are inevitable)

In this area where my damaged 
knowing of the language means 
prediction is forever impossible.

Poems of Wilfred Campbell 

Canadian poets and poems

The Winter Lakes

Out in a world of death, far to the northward lying,
Under the sun and the moon, under the dusk and the day;
Under the glimmer of stars and the purple of sunsets dying,
Wan and waste and white, stretch the great lakes away.

Never a bud of spring, never a laugh of summer,
Never a dream of love, never a song of bird;
But only the silence and white, the shores that grow chiller and dumber,
Wherever the ice-winds sob, and the griefs of winter are heard.

Crags that are black and wet out of the grey lake looming, 
Under the sunset's flush, and the pallid, fain glimmer of dawn;
Shadowy, ghost-like shores, where midnight surfs are booming 
Thunders of wintry woe over the spaces wan.

Lands that loom like spectres, whited regions of winter,
Wastes of desolate woods, deserts of water and shore;
A world of winter and death, within these regions who enter,
Lost to summer and life, go to return no more.

Moons that glimmer above, waters that lie white under,
Miles and miles of lake far out under the night;
Foaming crests of waves, surfs that shoreward thunder,
Shadowy shapes that flee, haunting the spaces white.

Lonely hidden bays, moon-lit, ice-rimmed, winding,
Fringed by forests and crags, haunted by shadowy shores;
Hushed from the outward strife, where the mighty surf is grinding 
Death and hate on the rocks, as sandward and land ward it roars.

Poems of Alexander McLachlan 


Old England is eaten by knaves,
Yet her heart is all right at the core,
May she ne'er be the mother of slaves,
Nor a foreign foe land on her shore.

I love my own country and race,
Nor lightly I fled from them both,
Yet who would remain in a place
Where there's too many spoons for the broth?

The squire's preserving his game.
He says that God gave it to him,
And he'll banish the poor without shame
For touching a feather or limb.

The Justice he feels very big,
And boasts what the law can secure,
But has two different laws in his wig,
Which he keeps for the rich and the poor.

The Bishop he preaches and prays,
And talks of a heavenly birth, 
But somehow, for all that he says,
He grabs a good share of the earth.

Old England is eaten by knaves,
Yet her heart is all right at the core,
May she ne'er be the mother of slaves,
Nor a foreign foe land on her shore.

Poems of Charles Sangster 

Canadian poets and poems

The Thousand Islands

The bark leaps love-fraught from the land; the sea
Lies calm before us. Many an isle is there,
Clad with soft verdure; many a stately tree
Uplifts its leafy branches through the air;
The amorous current bathes the islets fair,
As we skip, youth-like, o'er the limpid waves;
White cloudlets speck the golden atmosphere, 
Through which the passionate sun looks down, and graves 
His image on the pearls that boil from the deep caves,

And bathe the vessel's prow. Isle after isle 
Is passed, as we glide tortuously through 
The opening vistas, that uprise and smile
Upon us from the ever-changing view.
Here nature, lavish of her wealth, did strew
Her flocks of panting islets on the breast
Of the admiring River, where they grew,
Like shapes of Beauty, formed to give a zest
To the charmed mind, like waking Visions of the Blest.

The silver-sinewed arms of the proud Lake,
Love-wild, embrace each islet tenderly,
The zephyrs kiss the flowers when they wake
At morn, flushed with a rare simplicity;
See how they bloom around you birchen tree,
And smile along the bank, by the sandy shore,
In lovely groups - fair community!
The embossed rocks glitter like golden ore,
And here, the o'erarching trees form a fantastic bower.

Red walls of granite rise on either hand,
Rugged and smooth; a proud young eagle soars
Above the stately evergreens, that stand 
Like watchful sentinels on these Godbuilt towers;
And near you beds of many coloured flowers
Browse two majestic deer, and at their side
A spotted fawn all innocently cowers;

In the rank brushwood it attempts to hide,
While the strong-antlered stag steps forth with lordly stride.
And slakes his thirst, undaunted, at the stream.
Isles of o'erwhelming beauty! surely here
The wild enthusiast might live, and dream
His life away. No Nymphic trains appear,
To charm the pale Ideal Worshipper
Of Beauty; nor Neriads from the deeps below;
Nor hideous Gnomes, to fill the breast with fear:
But crystal streams through endless landscapes flow,
And o'er the clustering Isles the softest breezes blow.

And now 'this Night. A myriad stars have come
To cheer the earth, and sentinel the skies.
The full-orbed moon irradiates the gloom,
And fills the air with light. Each Islet lies
Immersed in shadow, soft as thy dark eyes;
Swift through the sinuous path our vessel glides,
Now hidden by the massive promontories,
Anon the bubbling silver from its sides
Spurning, like a wild bird, whose home is on the tides. 

Here nature holds her Carnival of Isles.
Steeped in warm sunlight all the merry day,
Each nodding tree and floating greenwood smiles,
And moss-crowned monsters move in grim array;
All night the Fisher spears his finny prey;
The piney flambeaux reddening the deep, 
past the dim shores, or up some mimic bay:
Like grotesque banditti they boldly seep 
Upon the startled prey, and stab them while they sleep.

Many a tale of legendary lore 
Is told of these romantic Isles. The feet 
Of the Red Man have pressed each wave-zoned shore,
And many an eye of beauty oft did greet
The painted warriors and their birchen fleet,
As they returned with trophies of the slain.
That race has passed away; their fair retreat 
In its primeval loneness smiles again, 
Save where some vessel snaps the isle-enwoven chain:

Save where the echo of the huntsman's gun
Startles the wild duck from some shallow nook,
Or the swift hounds' deep baying, as they run,
A pic-nic party, resting in the shade,
Spring pleasedly to their feet, to catch a look
At the strong steamer, through the water glade
Ploughing, like a huge serpent from its ambuscade.

Poems of Standish O' Grady

Winter in Lower Canada

Thou barren waste; unprofitable strand,
Where hemlocks brood on unproductive land,
Whose frozen air on one bleak winter's night
Can metamorphose dark brown hares to white!

Here forests crowd, unprofitable lumber,
O'er fruitless lands Indefinite as number;
Where birds scare light, and with the north winds veer
on winds of wind, and quickly disappear, 
Here the rough Bear subsists his winter year,
And licks his paw and finds no better fare.

One month we hear birds, shrill and loud and harsh,
The plaintive bittern sounding from the marsh;
The next we see the fleet-winged swallow,
The duck, the woodcock, and the ice-birds follow;
Then comes dreary clime, the lakes all stagnant grow,
And the wild wilderness is rapt in snow.

The lank Canadian eager trims his fire,
And all around their simpering stoves retire;
With fur-clad friends their progenies abound,
And thus regale their buffaloes around;
Unlettered race, how few the number tells,
Their only pride a cariole and bells!

To mirth or mourning, thus by folly led,
To mix in pleasure or to chaunt the dead!
To seek the chapel prostrate to adore,
Or leave their fathers' coffins at the door!
Perchance they revel; still around they creep,
And talk, and smoke, and spit, and drink, and sleep!

With sanguine sash and eke with Indian's mogs,
Let Frenchmen feed on fricassees or frogs;
Brave Greenland winters, seven long months to freeze,
With naught of verdure save their Greenland trees;
Bright veiled amid the drapery of night,

In ice-wrought tapestry of gorgeous white,
No matter here in this sad soil who delves;
Still leave their lower province to themselves. 

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