William Wrightson Eustace (W.W.E.) Ross

William Wrightson Eustace (W.W.E.) Ross, poet, geophysicist (b at Peterborough, Ont, 14 Jun 1894; d at Toronto, 26 Aug 1966). W.W.E. Ross grew up in Pembroke, Ontario and later attended the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO where he earned his degree in geophysics (1914). After completing his degree Ross served in the Canadian military as a private with the CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE's Signal Corps during WORLD WAR I. Upon his return to Canada Ross worked as a geophysicist at the Dominion Magnetic OBSERVATORY at Agincourt, Ontario, a position he held for his entire working life. Ross's passion for the natural world is evident in his poetry through its focus on Canada's physical environment. He published only two collections during his lifetime: Laconics (1930) and Sonnets (1932). After 1930 the majority of Ross's work was published in anthologies and LITERARY MAGAZINES at the behest of editors. Though now considered to be Canada's first Imagist poet, Ross remained relatively unrecognized during his lifetime.

W.W.E. Ross was first published in 1928, in the literary magazines The Dial and Poetry. Soon after these publications appeared he released his small collections: Laconics (1930) and Sonnets (1932). Imagist and Modernist styling can be seen in both collections, particularly Laconics. Ross, like many modernists, found the Romantic and highly structured forms of Confederation POETRY to be limiting and unappealing. For Ross, the use of complex language had a distancing effect. He remedied this in his own work through the use of simple diction and syntax, both hallmarks of Imagist poetry. Ross's scientific training undoubtedly had a strong impact on this as well. The description of northern Ontarian landscapes - which makes up much of Laconics - is factual and objective. In the 1930s Ross developed an interest in spirituality, which shows itself in his work. He translated some of the works of French poet Max Jacob and wrote prose poems influenced by Franz Kafka, incorporating elements of transcendentalism and archetypal imagery.

Ross published no other collections during his lifetime, though his work continued to appear in magazines and anthologies. In 1956, fellow poet Raymond SOUSTER collected and edited Ross' poems in an anthology entitled Experiment: 1923-1929. This anthology is widely credited with helping to foster recognition of Ross's place as Canada's first Imagist poet; a posthumous collection of Ross's poetry - Shapes and Sounds (1968) - reinforced this distinction.