Bibliography of A.J.M. Smith
A.J.M. Smith: An Annotated
Bibliography. Edited by Michael E. Darling. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1981, 228 pp.
This bibliography is not handsome; nor is it as
efficient as it might be; but it is welcome. Indeed, the reader, exasperated by
recent developments in other Canadian bibliographical undertakings, must thank Michael
Darling for saving Smith from less qualified bibliophiles. As it should, this
bibliography bears the fruits of dilligent searches through Canadian archives, and
Canadian, British, and American periodicals, and assembles for the first time an almost
complete record of the work of Smith and his critics. Only a proper enumeration of
archival holdings at McGill, Toronto, Queen's, and Trent (and Michigan State?) remains to
be undertaken. Darling offers in his annotations to Smith's published books and
pamphlets some of the archival material which clarifies or describes the
poet-critic/anthologist's negotiations with publishers and other writers. For
example, that Smith considered calling Collected Poems (1962) Kaleidoscope attests
to his own view that the collection had its individual shards but did form a unified
The bibliography is
divided into seven sections: A Smith's books and pamphlets; B Smith's first
appearance poetic and prose contributions to others' books; C Smith's periodical
contributions, whatever their genre; D Smith's contributions to anthologies; E
a section deceptively titled "Translations," that includes, not Smith's
translations, but translations by others of his poems; F criticism; and G
book reviews. As well, an index to the last two sections is provided. Sadly,
the assembly and presentation of the material leaves the reader in a state of wonder.
Truly excited to discover a bibliography for an important Canadian poet, he soon
finds himself ensnared by its contents, the victim of enchantment caught in the midst of a
morass of details.
The simple problem would
appear to be that Darling's work does not offer the would-be Smith critic help where he
most needs it. A major difficulty with Smith's oeuvre is the dating of
individual poems. Somewhere in this bibliography the original place and date of
publication of Smith's works are given. For example, those of "The Lonely
Land" may be found eighteen pages into section C, and, once found, the poem's
subsequent publication record appears to be given by Darling. Yet, this is not quite
the case, for the cross-references provided only cover appearances of the poem in other
periodicals and Smith's own books of poetry. Only a separate consultation of each
entry in section D (anthologies) reveals other published appearances of the poem, while an
off-chance glance at section E (translations) will reward the eye with the information
that the poem also has appeared once in a French translation not made by Smith.
What is wrong here?
Quite simply, the bibliography needs reorganization. Chronological organization that
ignores any generical classifications can reveal an author's output in a given year.
(Even at that, Darling's reader would have to check a specific year through each of
the first five sections.) But most students of Smith would come to a bibliography
wanting to determine, not a certain year's output, but, more likely, the date of first
(and subsequent) publication of a certain poem or article. Only a full reading of
section C, D, and E would provide such information. A number of solutions propose
themselves. Without altering Darling's divisions, one could display in the
voluminous section C the annual date, projected into the left-hand margin, thereby helping
to break down the flow of entries while showing at a glance the quantity of work published
in each year. One might also (quite appropriately, I think) divide Smith's
periodical contributions into subsections, one for poetry, and another for reviews and
critical studies. But what is most needed to complement a chronological format are a
number of lists, lists for the contents (in order) of each of Smith's volumes of poetry,
as well as alphabetically-arranged master lists of the poems, and of the critical
articles. Using Darling's code, these lists could give the complete publication
history, in chronological order, beside each entry. The poetry master list might
include the following entry:
Lonely Land, The.
C141, C212, C228, D2, D6, A3, D9, D11, D12, A9,
D13(I), A17, D13(II), A21, D24, D30, D31, D35, D13(III), A29, C456, E18.
Retention of Darling's code indicates that the
poem was published three times in periodicals and twice in anthologies before Smith
brought it out in his first volume of poetry (A3). Further annotation by Darling
also may have made possible in this example the notation from section F of those critical
articles that treat "The Lonely Land" in any detail. As well, an asterisk
might have been applied against a coded entry to denote that revisions were made in the
poem at a certain date in its history. Sufficient blank pages at the end of the book
will make it possible for its owner to make his own lists. Almost the only detail
not revealed by such a list, but which Darling's section D helpfully indicates, is the
oddity that Smith, after including "The Lonely Land" in New Provinces (1936),
chose not to include it in either his three editions of The Book of Canadian Poetry (1943,
1948, 1957) or his edition of The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse (1960).
Just as the poems listed
in section C are cross-referenced only to Smith's books of poetry and his anthologies, his
critical articles are cross-referenced only to his book, Towards a View of Canadian
Letters. To take "Contemporary Poetry" as one example, Darling lists
the short essay correctly as C183 under contributions to periodicals, but does not notify
his reader whether and where it has been republished. He does list it in D20 under
the contents of The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada, but there, he
does not cross-reference the entry back to C183, thus leaving the student who is familiar
with the essay only in the anthology searching in Dudek and Gnarowski for the requisite
bibliographical information. What the problems with "The Lonely Land" and
"Contemporary Poetry" underscore is that Darling has done the spadework well
enough, but has not brought his findings out into the clearest possible light.
decisions raise questions. Why was New Provinces not included in section A
(books and pamphlets) if it was decided that The Blasted Pine should be?
The Gnarowski introduction to the reprint of New Provinces (1976) shows that
Smith played a notable editorial role in the evolution of the volume, certainly as large a
one as he did for The Blasted Pine, which includes, in the first edition, four
fewer and, in the second edition, three fewer Smith poems than appeared in New
Provinces. As Smith's debut as an editor / anthologist (albeit in a
co-operative endeavour) and as a poet published in book form, New Provinces has
always been firmly linked to his name.
The inclusion of New
Provinces only in section D (anthologies) reflects the lower status accorded the
volume by Darling, who believes as well that no reviews of it need have appeared in
section G (book reviews). Not directed to these reviews, students may miss many
critical remarks on twelve of Smith's poems, remarks which include those made by W.J.
Keith in his salutary review of the reprint, which appeared in the pages of this journal
in 1979. By reading Smith's "Rejected Preface" back on the volume, Keith
offers the following valuable reminder: "There are ironies in his [Smith's] position.
Just as Scott drew attention to the fact that the new poetry was a quarter of a
century old, so Smith conceded that in advocating a poetry of sharply-chiselled phrase and
finely-honed intellect he was 'only following in the path of the more significant poets in
England and the United States'."
Whether this absence is
the consequence of oversight or deletion is not difficult to determine if one traces
Darling's announced decisions on other matters of inclusion and exclusion. He states
that section D comprises only "a representative selection of anthologies including
Smith's work" (p. 6), without stating his criteria for selection. Another
choice is made in section F (criticism) where, "the emphasis. . . is on early
references, while later commentaries that add little to our knowledge of the man or his
work are largely ignored" (p. 6). Section G (reviews of books) also reflects an
ill-defined critical choice. Its contents "have been selected with a view to
presenting either representative opinions or disparate views that are worthy [emphasis
added] of recording. Brief notices in magazines and newspapers are numerous, but
usually uninteresting, and these are rarely included" (p. 7). Unworthy,
apparently, are Keith's remarks, as well as those made by John Sutherland in his April,
1944 editorial in First Statement, entitled "Cosmopolitanism and our
Literary Provincialism," in which reference is made to the critical categories chosen
by Smith in The Book of Canadian Poetry. Darling continues: "Some of
Smith's books, especially the American anthologies, received little or no attention, and I
have decided not to include the very few reviews of these that I did locate" (p. 7).
What possible good can such deletions do? Surely it is for the critics of
Smith, not his bibliographer, to decide what is important, and, in order for critics
present and future to make the most intelligent decisions, the maximum of information must
be made available to them when the opportunity arises.
At least one difficulty
occurs with the book's format: the double-spaced typescript is a disappointment in a book
with hard covers but, be that as it may, section A is not easily read. The code
numbers are not projected into the margin, as in sections B, C, D, and E; nor are the
titles indented, as in sections F and G. One other annoying aspect of section A is
the inconsistent mention of Smith's epigraphical use of Santayana in all five of his
poetry books. Because Darling includes only what appears on the title page of each
edition, mention of Santayana occurs only in the entry for A Sort of Ecstasy, and
in the note on the publication of News of the Phoenix.
For the most part, the
annotations are cogent and concise, though one might wish to dispute the remark in the
entry for The Book of Canadian Prose: Volume 1 (1965) that: "it is
indicative of the relative unimportance of prose in Smith's view that in the twenty years
it took him to complete his prose anthology he produced seven anthologies of poetry"
(p. 45). Also, it seems beyond a bibliographer's jurisdiction to surmise where facts
do not present themselves. Darling offers this speculation on the publication of The
Classic Shade (1978) by McClelland and Stewart: "Although there is no documented
information on the pre-publication history of this book, one can gather that Smith was
unhappy that his publisher, Oxford University Press, had let Poems New and Collected go
out of print, and offered this selection to McClelland" (p. 57). Can one guess
that the same causes motivated Smith's move from Ryerson to Oxford for the publication of Collected
Poems (1962)? Smith may have been enticed by a better offer, or he may simply
have been distraught, as are the owners of copies of Poems New and Collected,
with the miserable binding on that paperback edition. Darling's opinion is only
as helpful as any other, unauthoritative as it is.
bibliographical entries are accurate in detail and correct in form, reflecting care where
perhaps a bibliography most requires it. Few errors are apparent: entry C161 ought
to read, "A Poem [Take in your long arms. . . . ]" to reflect an early version
of "For Healing." But, whereas each entry is satisfactorily presented, the
material not entered throws up more difficulties. One item appears merely to be an
omission: Smith's "A Note on Metaphysical Poetry," The Canadian Mercury,
I, No. 3 (Feb. 1929), 61-2, noted by G.P. Schultz in his Master's thesis, p. 221 (F49).
But other matters are the consequences of some of Darling's methodological
decisions: there is no record for those of Smith's poems which never appeared in
periodicals. Since the contents of each of the volumes of poetry are not listed, the
reader must deduce the publishing history of the four poems which appeared first in A
Sort of Ecstasy, the seven which appeared first in Collected Poems, and
the three which appeared first in Poems New and Collected. Furthermore,
those poems (eighteen, including the ones mentioned above) which were published only in
Smith's volumes and in other books of poetry and anthologies, but not in periodicals, are
very difficult to track down: for such an important poem as "The Wisdom of Old Jelly
Roll," which appeared only in Gustafson's The Penguin Book of Canadian Verse (and
there, was entitled "Sonnet") before its publication in Collected Poems,
this shortcoming is acute. Further omissions include Smith's graduate work: space
ought to have been made available for the mention of his two theses, on Yeats and on
Metaphysical Poetry, for the bearing they may or may not have on his poetics and critical
Finally, then, the
reader of this bibliography is struck predominantly by two things: the amount of
little-known material brought together by Darling; and the great effort that will be
expended by those who consult this much-needed resource to get out of it what a
bibliography is meant to offer up readily.