Douglas Lochhead

Douglas Lochhead, poet, librarian (born at Guelph, ON 25 March 1922; died at Sackville, NB 15 March 2011). Born in Guelph, Ontario, Douglas Lochhead was raised in Ottawa and took his BA at MCGILL UNIVERSITY in 1943. In 1947, after serving as an infantryman in the Canadian ARMED FORCES in the SECOND WORLD WAR, he completed his MA in English at the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO.

Lochhead returned to McGill University to study Library Science. Upon graduation in 1951 he took his first job as a librarian at the UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA; from there, he moved to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. After time spent at DALHOUSIE UNIVERSITY and YORK UNIVERSITY, Lochhead was hired by the University of Toronto's MASSEY COLLEGE Library, where, with Master of the college Robertson DAVIES, he worked to establish two special collections: Canadian LITERATURE IN ENGLISH and 19th century BIBLIOGRAPHY. He left the Massey College Library in 1975 for MOUNT ALLISON UNIVERSITY to become Davidson Professor of CANADIAN STUDIES until 1987, and Writer In Residence from 1987 to 1990. Lochhead's other honors include the vice-chairmanship of the LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS (1967-1971), election as a Fellow of the ROYAL SOCIETY OF CANADA (1976) and, in 2002, his appointment as Poet Laureate of SACKVILLE, New Brunswick. He made strong contributions to Canadian and Maritime literature through his general editorship of the University of Toronto Press's "Literature of Canada" series and as a co-founder of Maritime Art Magazine.

Lochhead published over thirty volumes of POETRY in over fifty years, among them: The Heart Is Fire (1959); An old woman looks out on Gabarus Bay remembering history, June 8, 1958 (1959); Shepherds before Kings (1963); Prayers In A Field: Ten Poems (1974) and High Marsh Road: Lines For a Diary (1980) which was a finalist in that year for the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD for poetry. In 2004, High Marsh Road appeared in Italian translation as La Strada di Tantramar, winning the Carlo Betocchi International Poetry Prize (2005). Other volumes of poetry include Tiger In The Skull :New and Selected Poems (1986); Upper Cape Poems (1998); Cape Enrage: Poems on a Raised Beach (2000); and Looking Into Trees (2009).

When asked about the effect the Sackville locality and its marshes had on his poetry, Lochhead replied, "The whole world is in your backyard if you choose to see it there, in the voice of a neighbour, the call of a chickadee. That's the material from which I work." It is precisely this quotidian base for his writing that makes Lochhead so accessible to so many. He sees the correspondences between the things of nature and their essences, and expresses these conditions in a plain-spoken but resonant simplicity. However, a wide range of emotion and technical mastery is conveyed in this simplicity. Whether it be in the prose poems of 1984's The Panic Field, which owe something to French poet René Char's aphoristic style, or the quietly sonorous language of All Things Do Continue (1997), in which he writes a sequence meditating on the 19th Psalm, Lochhead acknowledges an active, divine presence in all aspects of creation, locating the universal in the local.

It is the immediate apprehension of particulars that illuminates Lochhead's writing, giving it unexpected textures of joy, wistfulness and acceptance, as in his 2008 sequence Love In The Marsh:
love lopes in many ways. it is
that splendour of many paths.
it spreads in its curving ways
across the marsh. my love, let's
follow. these are beginnings.

Lochhead's steady vision and his calm, measured expression, by turns serenely penetrating or off-handedly droll, bring the reader through the dark and the light of this ordinary daily reality to an appreciation of all the wonder that courses just below the surface.

Douglas Lochhead died at the age of 88 in Sackville, New Brunswick, the town he loved and to which he contributed so much.