by George J. Dance

Louis Dudek

Louis Dudek (1918-2001). Photo courtesy Library and Archives Canada / e010757048.

Louis Dudek
Born February 6, 1918
Montreal, Quebec
Died March 23, 2001 (aged 83)
Montreal, Quebec
Language English
Nationality Canada Canadian
Ethnicity Polish
Notable award(s) Order of Canada
Spouse(s) Stephanie Zuperko, Aileen Collins
Children Gregory Dudek

Louis Dudek, OC (February 6, 1918 - March 23, 2001) was a Canadian poet, academic, and publisher.



Though a prolific poet (the author of over 2 dozen books), Dudek is best known for his literary criticism, particularly for his role in defining Modernism in poetry. "As a critic, teacher and theoretician, Dudek influenced the teaching of Canadian poetry in most schools and universities" in Canada.[1]

Youth and educationEdit

Dudek was born in Montreal, Quebec, the son of Stanislawa and Vincent Stanislawa Dudek, part of an extended Catholic family which had emigrated from Poland. He grew up in Montreal's East End.[2] He was lean and sickly as a child, which made him introverted and hypersensitive. His mother died at 31, when he was 8.[3]

Due to family finances, Dudek dropped out of high school, and went to work in a warehouse until, in 1936, his father was able to send him to college.[3] He entered McGill University in Montreal, soon becoming a reporter and Associate Editor for the McGill Daily.[4] He received a B.A. from McGill in 1939.


On graduating, Dudek briefly freelanced in journalism and advertising. He married Stephanie Zuperko on September 16, 1941.[4] They would have a son, Gregory Dudek (a professor of computer science who is director of the McGill University School of Computer Science).[3]

During this time Louis Dudek "was prominent among the poets who participated in First Statement (1942-1945), a seminal 'little magazine' in the development of modern Canadian literature."[5] "Together with" John Sutherland, the magazine's editor "and Irving Layton, he fought hard to foster a native tradition in poetry and establish new ways of writing in Canada, pioneering a direct style that articulated experience in plain language."[4]

The Dudeks moved to New York City[4] in 1943, where Dudek began graduate studies in journalism and history at Columbia University, soon changing his major to literature.[6] (His doctoral dissertation, Literature and the Press, was published in 1960.)[7] After receiving his Ph.D., he taught at New York's City College.[6]

While in New York, Dudek continued to contribute poems to First Statement and its successor, Northern Review.[7] In 1944 some of his poems appeared in the anthology Unit of Five, alongside poetry by Ronald Hambleton, P.K. Page, Raymond Souster, and James Wreford. His own debut collection of poetry, East of the City, was issued by Toronto's Ryerson Press in 1946.[4]

Dudek began corresponding with modernist poet Ezra Pound in 1949, and met Pound in person the next year. Pound encouraged him to adopt a more cosmopolitan approach to his writing.[4]


By the early 1950's the Dudeks' marriage was breaking up.[3] Louis Dudek returned to Montreal and joined the Department of English at McGill University in 1951. He would remain at McGill for the rest of his life. He became Greenshield professor of English in 1969,[4] and Professor Emeritus in 1984.[1] His colleague Brian Trehearne remembered him as a "gifted and natural lecturer" who taught "one of the most popular and challenging courses in the history of the Faculty of Arts."[5]

In 1952 Dudek founded Contact Press with Layton and Raymond Souster and Irving Layton; its first book was Cerberus, an anthology by the 3 of them. Contact Press would go on to publish "most of the important Canadian poets of the fifties and sixties."[7] Dudek also worked on the little magazine CIV/n ("Civilation"), founded in 1953 and edited by Aileen Collins.[3]

Dudek published his earliest long poem, Europe, in 1954.[7]

In 1956 Dudek began the McGill Poetry Series, a series of chapbooks by McGill students published by Contact Press. The first book in the Series, printed in 1956, was Let Us Compare Mythologies, the debut collection from Leonard Cohen. In 1957 the series published The Carnal and the Crane, the debut collection of Daryl Hine.[8]

In 1957 Dudek began Delta, his own poetry magazine, "in which he featured the work of many promising new poets" until 1966.[7] He bought a press, installed it in his basement, and learned how to run it to print the early issues of the magazine, as well as his 1958 book Laughing Stalks.[3] In his own writing he continued to explore the possibilities of long poems, writing Transparent Sea in 1956 and En Mexico in 1958.[7]

Throughout the 1950s Dudek remained "a passionate admirer and defender" of Ezra Pound, "and his efforts contributed to the older poet's release in 1958 from St. Elizabeth's mental hospital (where Pound had been confined since 1946)."[9]

Later lifeEdit

At odds with literary trends in the early 1960s, Dudek concentrated on his teaching and on the writing of his long poem, Atlantis (published in 1967).[7] In 1966 he founded Delta Canada Books along with Michael Gnarowski and Glen Siebrasse. The firm published more than 30 titles between 1966 and 1971, including Dudek's Collected Poems (1971).[3]

Dudek married Aileen Collins in 1970. The next year the two of them began DC Books,[3] which they would run until 1986,[9] and which is still in business.[10]

He wrote a column on books, film, and the arts for the Montreal Gazette between 1965 and 1969. "This activity together with his reviews, articles and radio talks has remained fundamental to Dudek's perception of the poet's and the critic's role in society."[7] His collected columns were published in 1988 as In Defence of Art.[3]

As well, he regularly contributed to Canadian academic journals "and, in keeping with his commitment to literature as part of daily life, made frequent appearances on CBC Radio and in various newspapers as a commentator on the arts and culture."[5] The First Person in Literature was originally broadcast as a series of CBC Radio lectures.[3]

Dudek "kept up a lifelong battle against some of the most famous and influential voices in Canadian cultural writing, including Northrop Frye and Marshall McLuhan." Perhaps for that reason, some major awards passed him by.[9]

Dudek always preferred to publish in the small press. "He was incredibly supportive of small publishers and writers," Simon Dardick, publisher of Vehicule Press, said of him. "There are dozens and dozens of writers and publishers who owe him so much. There was such a generosity of spirit there."[11] In return the small press contained some of his strongest supporters (including Vehicule), who continued to release new books by him through his lifetime.[9]

Dudek's poetry "was a beacon to three generations of Canadian poets, and among them are names like Daryl Hine and Doug Jones in the '50s, George Bowering and Frank Davey in the '60s, and Ken Norris, Endre Farkas and Peter Van Toorn in the '70s and '80s."[9]


Dudek began as a realist lyric poet influenced by the imagists. Unit of Five (1944) shows a style that employs few adverbs and adjectives, as well as direct descriptions.[4]

The social impulse is also strong in East of the City (1946), which uses the city as the setting for most of its poems.[4]

Social realism is absent from Dudek´s 2 next books of poetry, Twenty Four Poems (1952) and The Searching Image(1952). The first shows a strong influence of Imagism and its accumulative method; the second, however, shifts drastically towards stylism and artifice with dense and obscure metaphors and elaborate syntax.[4]

His "later poetry, typified by the collection Continuation 1 (1981), harks back to an earlier book, Epigrams (1975), and is an experiment in recording the fragmentary poetic moment."[7]



Dudek receiving award, 1990. Courtesy Poetry Quebec.

Louis Dudek, a biography by Susan Stromberg-Stein, was published in 1984. The same year, Dudek was invested as a member of the Order of Canada. "The citation honoured him as one of Canada's leading poets, with 25 volumes of verse to his name."[11]

Students, friends, and fellow poets honoured Dudek in 1990 with "a celebrated evening at Ben's Restaurant, where his peers gave him a special Canadian Writers' Award."[11]

In 2006 a German translation of his selected poetry was published at Elfenbein-Verlag, Berlin.



  • Unit of Five: Louis Dudek, Ronald Hambleton, P.K. Page, Raymond Souster, James Wreford (edited by Ronald Hambleton). Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1944.
  • East of the City. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1946.
  • Cerberus (by Louis Dudek, Raymond Souster, & Irving Layton). Toronto: Contact Press, 1952.
  • The Searching Image. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1952.
  • Twenty-Four Poems. Toronto: Contact Press, 1952.
  • Europe. Toronto: Laocoön (Contact) Press, 1954;[7] Erin, ON: The Porcupine's Quill, 1991.
  • The Transparent Sea. Toronto: Contact Press, 1956.
  • En Mexico. Toronto: Contact Press, 1958.
  • Laughing Stalks. Toronto: Contact Press, 1958.
  • Atlantis. Montreal: Delta Canada, 1967.
  • Collected Poetry. Montréal: Delta Canada, 1971.
  • Selected Poems. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1975.
  • "Continuation 1". The Tamarack Review 69 (1976).
  • Cross-Section: Poems, 1940-1980. Toronto: Coach House, 1980.
  • Poems from Atlantis. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1981.[3]
  • Continuation I. Montréal: Véhicule Press, 1981.
  • Zembla´s Rocks. Montreal: Véhicle Press, 1986.
  • Infinite Worlds: The poetry of Louis Dudek (edited by Robin Blaser). Monteal: Véhicule Press, 1988.
  • Continuation II. Montreal: Véhicule, 1990.
  • Small Perfect Things. Montreal: DC Books, 1991.
  • The Caged Tiger. Montreal: Empyreal Press, 1997.
  • The Poetry of Louis Dudek: Definitive edition. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1998.
  • The Surface of Time. Montreal: Empyreal, 2000.
  • For You, You = Für Dich, Dir (English with German translation; edited by Bernhard Beutler). Berlin: Elfenbein Verlag, 2006.


  • Literature and the Press: A history of printing, printed media and their relation to literature. Toronto: Ryerson Press & Contact Press, 1960.
  • The First Person in Literature. Toronto: CBC Publications, 1967.
  • All kinds of Everything: Teacher´s guide. Toronto: Clarke, 1973.
  • Epigrams. Montreal: DC Books, 1975.
  • Selected Essays and Criticism. Ottawa: The Tecumseh Press, 1978.
  • Technology and Culture: Six lectures. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1979.
  • Texts and Essays (edited by Frank Davey & bpNichol). Toronto: Open Letter, 1981.[12]
  • Ideas for Poetry. Montréal: Véhicule Press, 1983.
  • In Defense of Art: Critical essays and reviews (edited by Aileen Collins). Kingston: Quarry Press, 1988.
  • Essays on Myth, Art, & Reality. Montréal: Véhicule Press, 1992.
  • The Birth of Reason. Montreal: DC Books, 1994.
  • Reality Games. Montreal: Empyreal, 1998.


  • Canadian Poems, 1850-1952 (edited by Louis Dudek and Irving Layton). Toronto: Contact Press, 1952.
  • Raymond Souster, Selected Poems. Toronto: Contact Press, 1956.
  • Delta: A magazine of poetry and criticism. 1-26 (1957-1966).
  • Montreal: Paris of America (edited by Michel Regnier & Louis Dudek). Toronto: Ryerson Press; Montreal: Editions du Jour, 1961.
  • Poetry of Our Time: An introduction to twentieth-century poetry including modern Canadian poetry. Toronto: Macmillan, 1965.
  • The Making of Modern Poetry in Canada: Essential articles on contemporary poetry in English (edited by Louis Dudek & Michael Gnarowski). Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967.
  • All Kinds of Everything: Worlds of poetry. Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1973.
  • Dk / Some Letters of Ezra Pound. Montreal: DC Books, 1974.


  • 1941 Diary (edited by Aileen Collins). Montreal: Empyreal, 1996.
  • Notebooks 1940-1994. Ottawa: Golden Dog, 1994.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy of the University of Toronto..[13]


Poem 19 from Europe

Poem 19 from Europe

Poem 95 from Europe

Poem 95 from Europe

  • The Green Beyond: Poems. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 1973.
  • A Poetry Reading. Toronto: League of Canadian Poets, 1982.

See also Edit

References Edit



  1. 1.0 1.1 Heather Prycz, "Montreal in the 40's and 50's," A Digital History of Canadian Poetry,, Web, May 6, 2011.
  2. William H. New, "Dudek, Louis," Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto P, 2002), 316-317, Google Books, Web, May 6, 2011.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 "Louis Dudek: Autobiography," Biographies, Issue No. 1, Poetry Quebec, Web, May 6, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 "Louis Dudek: Biography," Canadian Poetry Online,, Web, May 6, 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Brian Trehearne, "Louis Dudek: A Poet's Poet," McGill Reporter, 33:14 (April 5, 2001),, Web, Feb. 13, 2005.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Dudek, Louis (1918-2001)", Literary Archives, Library and Archives Canada,, Web, Jan. 29, 2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.9 Michaael Gnarowski, "Dudek, Louis," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 631-632.
  8. "Steve Smith" (discussion),, Web, May 6, 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Bruce Whiteman, "Appreciation of Louis Dudek: The People's Intellectual," Literary Montreal,, Web, May 6, 2001.
  10. "About DC Books," DC Books, Web, May 6, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Alan Hustak, "Poet-teacher Louis Dudek, 83, dies," Montreal Gazette, Mar. 23, 2001.
  12. Search results = au:Louis Dudek, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 5, 2015.
  13. "Louis Dudek: Publications," Canadian Poetry Online,, Web, May 6, 2011.
  14. "F.R. Scott: Publications," Canadian Poetry Online, University of Toronto Libraries,, Web, May 7, 2011.

External links Edit

  • Canadian Poetry Online: Louis Dudek - Biography & 7 poems (The Strange Moth, And So We Have Arrived, Early Morning, For you, you, As language, What is it that a poet knows, The poet in old age)
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