Dudek, Louis 1918–
Dudek, a Canadian poet, essayist, and editor, was an important contributor to the modern poetry movement in Canada during the 1940s. Pound's influence is felt throughout Dudek's work, especially in his long poem Atlantis, in which he explicates the present through the past. Dudek was the founding editor of Delta magazine. (See also CLC, Vol. 11, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 45-48.)
E. K. Brown
In East of the City the themes are almost the same as those that preoccupied [Mr. Louis Dudek in Unit of Five]. Mr. Dudek is sensitive to the surfaces of things and of persons, and many of his best passages are the records of his simple responses to what he sees and hears. He is also concerned with the social system, and bent upon its reconstruction: he often bursts into indictments of injustice and calls for summary action. The two main levels of his poetry—the sensual and the intellectual—remain separate, and there is little reciprocal enrichment. Perhaps what one misses most is … the distinctive power over words, the individual word, and the arrangement of words in broad units. When this power is lacking a poem may yet move, it is true, but it is scarcely poetically moving, for what it has to deliver is not enhanced by the poetic medium. (p. 251)
E. K. Brown, "Letters in Canada: 1946," in University of Toronto Quarterly (reprinted by permission of University of Toronto Press), Vol. XVI, No. 3, April, 1947, pp. 246-340.∗
[Twenty-four Poems] evidently is a sequence of impressions, one for each hour of the day: at any rate the first poem is called "Dawn" and the twelfth "Noon." They are strongly pictorial in mood, full of colour, and at times are merely decorative pattern. One continually thinks of paintings: so, rather unfortunately, does Mr. Dudek himself, as it seems to me that an over-explicit reference to Klee injures an otherwise fine sonnet. There is nothing startlingly good in the sequence, yet one is always just on the point of calling him facile and being brought up short…. (pp. 19-20)
[The Searching Image], on the whole, contains more serious poetry, some of it, though disappointingly little, on a level with the best of his earlier work in Unit of Five and East of the City. "Theme with Variations" is a series of vivid sketches of sunrise in a city, in a long swinging oracular rhythm, and there is a delicately elaborated conceit in the opening poem, "The Bee of Words." His favourite theme is the affinity between the creative powers of the mind and the vital energy that produces beautiful things in nature…. (p. 20)
He has more room to operate in Cerberus …, a collection of the work of three poets, Dudek, Irving Layton, and Raymond Souster…. In deference to his colleagues, Mr. Dudek endeavours to recapture some of his earlier feeling for social problems, but it is clear from his manifesto that he is no longer in danger of confusing poetry with popular rhetoric. He realizes that the enemy of poetry is not social evil but slipshod language, the weasel words that betray the free mind: he realizes that to create requires an objective serenity beyond all intruding moral worries about atomic bombs and race prejudice. One sentence is particularly striking: "Actuality itself is a metaphor made of iron, the diseased poem which man has erected out of mass frustration, out of centuries of evil." Of the poet he says:
You will not learn from him of your danger,
You must fear a more mean and mechanical murder.
As long as he preserves this austere detachment, he writes at his best, but his hold on it is uncertain: "A Drunk on the Sidewalk," for instance, is a fine poem except for two silly lines at the end; "Suburban Prospect," on the other hand, keeps a dry irony all through. (pp. 20-1)
Northrop Frye, in his extracts from his "Letters in Canada," in University of Toronto Quarterly (reprinted by permission of University of Toronto Press), Vol. XXII, No. 3, April, 1953 (and reprinted in his The Bush Garden: Essays on the Canadian...
(The entire section is 3,445 words.)