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Volume 10, Number 1 (1985)

Isabella Valancy Crawford's Poetic Technique

  • Robert Alan Burns
May 22, 2008


As more of her work becomes accessible to critical scrutiny, the image of Isabella Valancy Crawford as an angelic mendicant, a blessed gypsy of the Canadian woods and streams, or a naive, reclusive genius escaping from the difficulties of her life into a world of fantasy must yield place to a more accurate portrait of a tough-minded, conscious artist whose development as a poet reflects a working knowledge of the great tradition of the English lyric, an acquaintance with nineteenth-century chansons populaires, and familiarity with the masters of blank verse in English from Shakespeare through Browning. Moreover, her poems suggest that her reading included American poets such as Whitman, Poe, Longfellow, and, perhaps, Riley, the influence of whom she assimilated and transmuted into her own unique style. Crawford's verse exhibits a variety of tones, from witty Horatian satire to caustic irony and intensely evocative lyricism. In her longer narrative poems and dramatic monologues, she shows remarkable skill in blank verse, and her shorter newspaper verse displays a plethora of verse forms, ranging from paired amphibrachs to fourteeners.