Humanism in the poetry of Earle Birney.

Wildish, Arthur Sherry (1970) Humanism in the poetry of Earle Birney. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The main thematic concern of Earle Birney's poetry is man and the condition of man; in this sense he is a humanist. Most of the poems attempt to place before the reader a picture of real men, who are seen in all their glory and all their degradation. The forces of evil and the men who unleash them are contrasted with the capacity for good that mankind possesses. -- The first volume of poetry discussed is David and Other Poems (1942). In the title poem one individual alienates himself from nature for the sake of his friends; by exercising his will he sacrifices himself for a higher, human, good. The other poems are works of natural description, poetry of war, and poetry of the confrontation of urban life and nature. In this volume also, we see Birney's interest in the language of poetry as he experiments with verse forms and creates neologisms on an Anglo-saxon pattern. Now is Time (1945) is composed largely of war poems; the precarious human condition is dramatized even more vividly in poetry that examines selflessness and love, a lack of which alienates men from one another. The Strait of Anian (1948) and Trial of a City (1952) emphasize like "David" the importance of man's will in determining what the future will be; the power for good is in man's will to good. Trial of a City is a verse drama that epitomizes Birney's humanistic concerns and greatly extends his use of neologism, Middle-English and Anglo-Saxon forms. His purpose in creating new words is compared and contrasted with that of James Joyce and William Barnes. In Ice Cod Bell or Stone (1962) and Near False Creek Mouth (1964), the humanistic impetus of the poems is continued in a concern for culture and history-the past that man himself has created. As a visitor to foreign lands, the poet appreciates the culture of the local people and sees the conflict between material prosperity and the heritage of the past. Overcoming the estrangement resulting from his wealth, he comes to love the people and in so doing he is restored to the community of men. In these last two volumes, the poet's technique includes typographical experimentation after the fashion of E.E. Cummings and a manipulation of words and letters that is almost like concrete poetry.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/9943
Item ID: 9943
Additional Information: Bibliography : leaves 118-124.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: 1970
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Birney, Eaarle, 1904-1995;

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