Dennis Beynon Lee, teacher, editor, critic, poet (b at Toronto 31 Aug 1939). A graduate in English from U of T (BA 1962, MA 1965), Lee has taught or served as writer-in-residence for various universities.
Dennis Beynon Lee, teacher, editor, critic, poet (b at Toronto 31 Aug 1939). A graduate in English from U of T (BA 1962, MA 1965), Lee has taught or served as writer-in-residence for various universities. A founder and highly praised editor (1967-72) of House of Anansi, he later worked as consulting editor for Macmillan (1974-79) and McClelland and Stewart (1981-84), and also wrote songs, with Phillip Balsam, for the TV program "Fraggle Rock" (1982-86). Lee's prose books include The University Game (ed with H. Adelman, 1968), in which he calls for freedom from inhibiting educational institutions, and Savage Fields: An Essay in Literature and Cosmology (1977). The latter explores the interrelationship between "earth" and "world" - ie, nature and civilization, or instinct and consciousness - all with particular application to a critical analysis of works by Michael Ondaatje and Leonard Cohen.
Lee disavows much of Kingdom of Absence (1967), a sequence of 43 sonnet variations, but some of its concerns - modern ills, alienation, emptiness, colonialism, and their effects on the imagination and even on language - are developed in later books. Civil Elegies (1968, rev 1972; Governor General's Award) is a free-verse lament for Canada's colonized condition and a meditation on the need to become a full citizen: to occupy, imaginatively and in integrity, one's own life and land.
Reclaiming language and liberating imagination, key parts of this process, are best begun in childhood; accordingly, Lee tries to free Canadian children from a colonial mentality by creating poems rooted in the words and activities of their everyday lives, poems which encourage free imaginative play. His 2 best children's books appeared in 1974; Alligator Pie, for pre-schoolers, and Nicholas Knock and Other People for older children. On the adult level, roots and play (including lovemaking) are further explored in Part 1 of The Gods (1979). Part 2, The Death of Harold Ladoo (1976), is an elegy for Lee's friend, a writer murdered in 1973 during a visit to his native Trinidad. The poem also meditates on the roles of mystical epiphanies and of artistic creation in its attempt to come to terms with the problems of the contemporary world. His most recent work is Nightwatch (New and Selected Poems 1968-1996) (1996).