Earle Birney is a poet whose life tells a lot about the Canadian character, which is by no means quiet and calm. The extraordinary character and changeable fate of the poet perfectly reflect the original culture and special mentality of Canada, which is hardened in trials, rebellious and free, generous to the hardy, and harsh to the weak-willed. Earle Birney knows how to convey an instant impression or experience with two or three lines. The poet is known for not only lyrical but also social and political poetry which is emotional and conveys the true spirit of Canada.
In 1942, the first collection of the poet entitled “David” was published. The poem “David” is now included in all university courses in Canadian poetry. It tells the story of two climbers, one of whom, trying to keep his friend who fell from a cliff. However, in a fit of self-sacrifice, he falls into the abyss himself (Lecker 87). The poem is quite neo-romantic: the harsh pictures of nature, echoing the thoughts of the heroes, are interspersed with Nietzschean formulas. “David” impresses the readers with the help of its imagery that helps to visualize the character’s emotions.
In the 50s, Birney begins to write politicized poetry since Canada was thoroughly saturated with politics at this time. His poems are getting harder and more minimalistic, and he gradually comes to concrete visual poetry when the graphic image of the poem plays an increasing role, as in his “Alaska Passage” (Lecker 69). His verses do not always follow the same rhythm, which makes the poems emotional, impressive, and mature. Therefore, Birney is an example of a national Canadian poet, whose voice managed to respond to the main events of the century in a serious and at the same time emotional manner.
Lecker, Robert, ed. Open Country: Canadian Literature in English. Thomson Nelson, 2008.