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Ralph Gustafson (1909-1995)

Ralph Gustafson was born in Lime Ridge, Quebec, of Anglo-Scandanavian ancestry. His local education culminated at Bishops University and continued abroad at Oxford, where he received his B.A. in 1933. After a brief return to Canada he resided in England until 1938 where he developed a rather traditional romantic poetic, including publications such as The golden chalice (1935) and the verse play King Alfred (1937). He next settled in New York, where his work shifted to the new realities of American modernism and the horrors of war. During WWII he worked for the British Information Service in Manhattan. Three collections appeared reflecting this change: Epithalamium in time of war (1941), Lyrics unromantic (1942), and Flight into darkness. Ultimately Gustafson's legacy will be seen in his work as an anthologist. Having come under the influence of that other great Canadian expatriate anthologist, A.J.M. Smith, Gustafson edited three anthologies for Penguin: Anthology of Canadian Poetry/English (1942), Canadian accent (1944) and The Penguin book of Canadian verse (1958; revised 1967).

     Gustafson returned to Canada in 1960 to become writer-in-residence at Bishop's, where he also taught English. His repatriation was preceded by extensive travel, which was reflected in his next two books, Rocky mountain poems (1960) and Rivers among rocks (1960). Finally having settled in his mother country, Gustafson settled into a prolific groove, with publications such as Sift in an hourglass (1966), Ixion's wheel (1969), Fire on stone (1974), for which he won the Governor General's award, Corners in glass (1977), Soviet poems (1978), Sequences (1979), Landscape without rain (1980), Conflicts of spring (1981) and Gradations of grandeur (1982).