The Rocking Chair and Other Poems
In A.M. Klein's final volume of poetry (1948), he explores more profoundly than ever before in his writings the theme of community which had been the centre of his major works.
In A.M. Klein's final volume of poetry (1948), he explores more profoundly than ever before in his writings the theme of community which had been the centre of his major works. The poems express his responses to persons, things, and places, to issues Canadian and, more particularly, French-Canadian. As in his earlier poems about the Jewish community, in his French-Canadian poems Klein drew on his firsthand knowledge of the Canadiens and their culture. His warm sympathy for French Canada was probably deepened by his awareness that it, like his own Jewish community, was a minority society striving to preserve its cultural identity, language, and religion against the encroachments of larger outside forces.
If these similarities enabled him to draw on his personal experience to celebrate a living community, they also enabled him to confront the limitations of community as he had suffered them, a crippling narrowness and fearfulness in the face of the unknown. In the volume's concluding poem, "Portrait of the Poet as Landscape," the theme of the neglected artist in an indifferent or corrupting society is a moving general indictment. The Rocking Chair was the best received of Klein's books, winning enthusiastic praise in Québec for its accuracy and sensitivity, and also capturing the Governor General's Award for poetry. It is one of the major collections of 20th century Canadian poetry.