Naked Poems, by Phyllis Webb (1965), is one of the most influential works of its time, for it suggested a new vision of the book-length poem which profoundly affected a number of poets in the following literary generations.
Naked Poems, by Phyllis Webb (1965), is one of the most influential works of its time, for it suggested a new vision of the book-length poem which profoundly affected a number of poets in the following literary generations. Full of lyric intensity yet transcending mere lyric posturing, Naked Poems is Canada's first masterpiece of process poetics, a series of precisely crafted minimal texts which remain open to the possibilities of what the third section calls the "Non Linear." Robert Kroetsch has made perhaps the finest and most concise statement about this innovative and concise work: "On nakedness and lyric and yet on a way out, perhaps a way out of the ending of the lyric too, with its ferocious principles of closure, a being compelled out of lyric by lyric."
In this gestational long poem, sexual and writerly desire are interrogated and integrated in a manner new to Canadian poetry. And the testimony to its importance is to be found in the works of such later poets as George Bowering, Douglas Barbour, Diana Hartog, Roy Kiyooka, Daphne Marlatt, bp Nichol, Michael Ondaatje, Stephen Scobie, Sharon Thesen, Lola Lemire Tostevin, as well as many others.
Although unable to include it in the first Long Poem Anthology (1979), which argued the case for the centrality of this form to Canadian poetry since the 1960s, Ondaatje wrote, "to me it is still one of the most beautiful and influential books of the last decade." Sharon Thesen does have it in The New Long Poem Anthology (1991), where it takes its rightful place as one of the central poems to demonstrate how to write the extended form that narrates its own becoming.