Earle Birney (1904-1995)
Earle Birney was born in Calgary, when it was still part of the Northwest Territories.
His family moved to Banff in 1911 and then to a farm near Creston, B.C.
In 1916. Before enrolling in chemistry at the University of British Columbia
in 1922, Birney worked as a bank clerk, a farm labourer, and for the national
parks commission. An associate editor of the campus newspaper, The Ubyssey,
by his second year, he was editor-in-chief by 1925. After receiving his
M.A. from the University of Toronto he continued his graduate studies at
the University of California, Berkeley. While completing his doctoral coursework
at the U. of T. he became a party organizer for the Trotskyist branch of
the Canadian Communist Party. He completed his disertation, 'Chaucer's Irony',
on a fellowship in England, interviewing Leon Trotsky in Norway on a sidetrip.
Birney became literary editor of The Canadian Forum between 1938
and 1940 and enlisted for officer training in the Canadian army. His first
collection of poetry, David, won the Governor General's Award for
1942. After the war he edited The Canadian Poetry Magazine. While
teaching medieval literature at U.B.C. he established Canada's first department
of creative writing in a major institution. Now is time (1945) was
followed by Strait of Anian (1948). Trial of a city (1952)
was originally called The Damnation of Vancouver but Birney's publisher,
Ryerson Press, worried that its Presbeterean board members might take offense.