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Labelled with ICRA

Since 1979 logo

book cover

6 X 9 inches, 64 pages

ISBN 920806414
Out of print

Cantos North

Henry Beissel

"EXPLORERS, EXPLOITERS, PAINTERS, POETS, have all made their private claims upon it (the Canadian northland), but this epic is the first to see it in its entirety, as a matrix which binds the whole together in a national mythology."

—F.R. Scott

Before blindness struck the Isle of Chios there was Baffin Island
and the tambour pulsebeat of a race of gods sterner than Olympus,
before Homer could drink to the sea with his eyes full of the dark
wine of his song the same sun was singing here
up north in the pinched eyes of men against the cold.
Bone rattle and lyre—two voices to the same heart, but the wind
is harsher here and sculpts the frozen plains for one season only....

—from Fifth Canto: How to Build an Igloo / Into History

The vigour and cadence of this long poem are exceptional. Henry Beissel meets a fierce Canadian north and west head on, infusing his landscape with vastness and power... Beissel spins energetic music in several modes, takes on the native and the colonial experiences, plays with language, captures the physical world, and extends the imagination in a major work worthy of comparison to Hart Crane's masterpiece, The Bridge.
Canadian Materials


Henry Beissel


Henry Beissel was born in 1929 in Cologne, Germany, and came to Canada in 1951 via London, England, where he studied philosophy. He tried his hand as warehouse packer, apple picker, door-to-door salesman and film maker. He resumed studies at U of T in English literature, writing his Master's thesis on Henry Vaughan. He is now a widely published poet, playwright, translator and editor with over thirty titles to his credit.

F.R. Scott thought that his Cantos North was the first epic to see the Canadian north "in its entirety, as a matrix which binds the whole together in a national mythology." His play Inuk and the Sun had its premiere in Stratford in 1973 and continues to be performed the world over.

Helmut Markus (Göttingen), Settlement and Survival: Henry Beissel's 'Cantos North'
Settlement and Survival: Henry Beissel's 'Cantos North'

Writers' Union


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