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Mary Dalton (CA)

Vernacular Strain in Newfoundland Poetry, The

Vernacular Strain in Newfoundland Poetry, The

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Mary Dalton’s 2020 Pratt Lecture engages with the vernacular voice in Newfoundland poetry, illustrating the move from uncertainty to acceptance and welcoming of the beauty and variety of the language of Newfoundland.

The Vernacular Strain in Newfoundland Poetry explores some of the tensions between the oral and the written in the poetry of Newfoundland, with particular emphasis on the struggle towards a confident incorporation of vernacular speech in the poetry of the island in the latter part of the twentieth century. As the word “strain” suggests, there were reservations and hesitancies about drawing on what is a hugely rich linguistic and sonic resource for poetry, one of many vitiating results of a colonial legacy. This Pratt Lecture celebrates the vitality of poetry which lets in Newfoundland idioms and cadences. Among the poets considered are Percy Janes, Tom Dawe, Al Pittman, David Glover, John Steffler and Harold Paddock, and the generation who followed them: Agnes Walsh, Gordon Rodgers, Carmelita McGrath, Michael Crummey, Robin McGrath.

The PRATT LECTURES were established in 1968 to commemorate the legacy of E.J. Pratt. Over the years, the series has hosted a litany of world-renowned authors and scholars, including Northrop Frye, Seamus Heaney, Helen Vendler, and Dionne Brand.


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Breakwater Books


Mary Dalton is Professor Emerita of English at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Poet Laureate of St. John’s. She is the author of five books of poetry, including Merrybegot, Red Ledger, and Hooking: A Book of Centos. Merrybegot, winner of the E. J. Pratt Poetry Award and a nominee for the Pat Lowther Award, is also an audiobook. Red Ledger was short-listed for the Atlantic Poetry Prize and the E. J. Pratt Poetry Award. Hooking: A Book of Centos was shortlisted for the E. J. Pratt Poetry Award and the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry, and named a Top Book of the Season by the CBC and the Globe and Mail. A prose collection, Edge: Essays, Reviews, Interviews, was published by Palimpsest Press in 2015. A letterpress chapbook, Waste Ground, illustrated by engraver Abigail Rorer, was published by Running the Goat Press in 2017. Mary Dalton hosts the poetry podcast Flahoolic.

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