THE COLOUR OF THE TIMES BY: RAYMOND SOUSTER
THE COLOUR OF THE TIMES BY: RAYMOND SOUSTER
Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1970. Fifth printing. Hardcover. Near fine/Very good. 121 p. 25 cm. Purple cloth in dustjacket. Jacket front flap clipped. Inscribed by author on front free endpaper. Also signed by him on title page. Whiteman A17. Includes: R.C.A.F. Station; "June 1945;" "Dominion Square;" "Shake Hands with the Hangman;" "Yonge Street Saturday Night;" etc.
Raymond Holmes Souster (January 15, 1921 – October 19, 2012) was a Canadian poet whose writing career spanned over 70 years. More than 50 volumes of his own poetry were published during his lifetime, and he edited or co-edited a dozen volumes of poetry by others. A resident of Toronto all of his life, he has been called that city's "most loved poet".
Robert Fulford wrote of Souster in 1998: "You can't read the history of Canadian poetry without encountering him, yet somehow he remains obscure. His legendary shyness has created, over five decades, a curious form of anonymity: he's at once omnipresent and invisible."
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Souster grew up in West Toronto near the Humber River. After graduating from the University of Toronto Schools, he joined the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce at King & Bay Streets in Toronto in 1939. Apart from four years' service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, he worked at the bank until retiring in 1984. Souster's first published poem appeared in First Statement, the little magazine founded by John Sutherland in Montreal in 1942. In 1943, while still in the air force, Souster and two friends launched their own little poetry magazine, Direction. In 1944 he placed 21 poems in the anthology Unit of Five, alongside poetry by Louis Dudek, Ronald Hambleton, P. K. Page, and James Wreford. With Dudek and Irving Layton, Souster founded Contact magazine and Contact Press in 1952. The magazine lasted only until 1954, but Contact Press put out books until 1967. Its first book was Cerberus, an anthology of poetry by the trio. All three would be prolific writers for Contact Press over the next decade. Contact Press published Souster's Selected Poems, edited by Dudek, in 1956, which brought Souster his first serious critical attention. In 1956, under the Contact Press imprint, Souster brought out a small booklet titled "Experiment 1923-29." It contained the modernist poetry that Canadian poet W.W.E. Ross had written in the 1920s. Thus, Souster saved Ross's work from obscurity. Souster also helped new writers.
He edited two anthologies for Contact, Poets 56 in 1956, and New Wave Canada: The New Explosion in Poetry in 1966. "Souster brought several young poets to Contact Press, and gave an important boost to the new poetry with New Wave Canada." The young poets included Margaret Atwood, whose first book, "The Circle Game" went on to win the Governor General's Award in 1966. Michael Ondaatje has said the following of Souster: "He brought many of us to the surface and we owe him everything." Souster was one of the six founders of the League of Canadian Poets in 1966. He was the League's first president from 1967 to 1972. The early 1960s were a prolific and distinguished period for Souster, culminating in his own Governor General's Award in 1964 for his Collected Poems, The Colour of the Times. "In the late 1960s, he embarked on the revision of his early poetry with a view to its reissue," a project that resulted in a Selected Poems in 1972, and the first four volumes of a now ten-volume Collected Poems in 1980, all of which were published by Oberon Press. Souster has also written fiction under the pseudonyms of "Raymond Holmes" and "John Holmes", for which he has drawn on his Air Force experience.
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