Birney also had an important career as a teacher of creative writing and literature, and as a playwright, novelist and editor. He taught at several universities, most notably at UBC (1946-65), where he founded and directed the first Canadian creative writing programme. His work led to the establishment at UBC of Canada's first Department of Creative Writing in 1965. In this same year, Birney was appointed as the first writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto. But his greatest contribution has been to 20th century Canadian poetry.
Birney won the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S AWARD for poetry twice (for David, 1942, and for Now Is Time, 1945). His darkly comic WWII novel Turvey won the Stephen Leacock Medal in 1949. He received the Lorne Pierce Medal for Literature in 1953. Later works includeCopernican Fix (1985), Words on Waves: Selected Radio Plays (1985) and Essays on Chaucerian Irony (1985). His memoir is titled Spreading Time: Remarks on Canadian Writing and Writers 1904-1949 (1989). His final collection, Last Markings (1991), was published after a disabling heart attack in 1987.
In long poems and lyrics, sight poems, sound poems and found poems, whether on the page or in his collection of recorded poems with the percussion ensemble NEXUS (1982), Birney demonstrated his deep commitment to making language have meaning in every possible and eloquent way.
Author NEIL BESNER
Links to Other Sites
A biography of revered Canadian poet Earle Birney. Also features a selection of his poetry, a bibliography, and links to additional online resources. From Canadian Poetry Online.
Read an annotated copy of Earle Birney's poem "David." From Representative Poetry Online, a University of Toronto website.
Earle Birney as Anglo-Saxon Scop: a Canadian "Shaper" of Poetry?
A detailed examination of the "Anglo-Saxon" elements of Earle Birney's poetry. From the journal "Canadian Poetry."
Let The Man Speak
Listen to sound clips featuring poet Earle Birney speaking on a variety of topics. From a vintage Earle Birney tribute site.
One Muddy Hand
See a brief profile of Earle Birney and synopsis of "One Muddy Hand" from Harbour Publishing.
Obituary: Earle Birney
An obituary for Earle Birney, described as British Columbia’s most central and pivotal literary figure of the 20th century. From abcbookworld.com.