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Louis Dudek : biography

February 6, 1918 - March 23, 2001

Louis Dudek, (February 6, 1918 – March 23, 2001) was a Canadian poet, academic, and publisher known for his role in defining Modernism in poetry, and for his literary criticism. He was the author of over two dozen books. "As a critic, teacher and theoretician, Dudek influenced the teaching of Canadian poetry in most schools and universities" in Canada."


Dudek was born in Montreal Quebec, the son of Vincent and Stanislawa Dudek, part of an extended Catholic family which had emigrated from Poland, and was raised in that city's East End.William H. New, "," Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2002), 316-317, Google Books, Web, May 6, 2011. He was lean and sickly as a child, which made him introverted and hypersensitive. His mother died at 31, when he was eight."," Biographies, Issue No. 1, Poetry Quebec, Web, May 6, 2011.

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


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

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."Brian Trehearne, "," McGill Reporter, 33:14 (April 5, 2001), McGill.ca, Web, Feb. 13, 2005. "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.""," Canadian Poetry Online, UToronto.ca, Web, May 6, 2011.

The Dudeks moved to New York City in 1943, where Dudek began graduate studies in journalism and history at Columbia University, soon changing his major to literature."", Literary Archives, Library and Archives Canada, CollectionsCanada.gc.ca, Web, Jan. 29, 2007. (His doctoral dissertation, Literature and the Press, was published in 1960.) After receiving his Ph.D., he taught at New York's City College.

While in New York, Dudek continued to contribute poems to First Statement and its successor, Northern Review. 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 first book of poetry, East of the City, was issued by Toronto's Ryerson Press in 1946.

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.


By the early 1950s the Dudeks' marriage was breaking up. 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, and Professor Emeritus in 1984.Heather Prycz, "," A Digital History of Canadian Poetry, YoungPoets.ca, Web, May 6, 2011. 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."Brian Trehearne, "Louis Dudek: A Poet's Poet," McGill Reporter, 33:14 (April 5, 2001), McGill.ca, Web, May 6, 2011.

In 1952 Dudek founded Contact Press with Raymond Souster and Irving Layton; its first book was Cerberus, an anthology by the three of them. Contact Press would go on to publish "most of the important Canadian poets of the fifties and sixties."Michaael Gnarowski, "," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 631-632. Dudek also worked on the little magazine CIV/n ("Civilation"), founded in 1953 and edited by Aileen Collins.

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