Sunday, October 21, 2012

Raymond Souster (January 15, 1921 – October 19, 2012)

As Bruce Meyer posted yesterday afternoon on Facebook:

Yesterday Canadian poetry lost one of its giants with the passing of Raymond Souster. He was the first in Canada to take up the poetics of William Carlos Williams. His career spanned generations. I saw him about a year ago and his brilliant mind was still sharp though he was physically infirm. We talked for about six hours, until I was exhausted. He didn't want me to leave. His life was Canadian poetry. Rest in peace, Ray. See you at the World Series.

The author of more than fifty volumes of poetry, he live the entirety of his life in Toronto, and was once called the city’s “most loved poet.” If you can find Stephen Cain’s essay, “Souster’s Toronto,” I would highly recommend it.

With the email he originally sent out, James Deahl included this short bio for Souster that he wrote for a publication called The Ambassador:
Raymond Souster was born in Toronto during 1921 and has been a leading member of the Great Generation for the past 70 years. Souster won the Governor General's Award for poetry in 1964 (for The Colour of the Times), was presented with Canada's Centennial Medal in 1967, won the City of Toronto Book award in 1979 (for Hanging In), and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1995. He was a founding member of the League of Canadian Poets and served as LCP President from 1967 to 1971. He is the author of well over 70 books, largely of poetry, most recently Easy Does It and Never Counting the Cost

Souster served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. In the 1950s, he edited first Contact and later Combustion, the foremost Canadian poetry magazines of their day. He also ran Contact Press for 15 years (1952 - 1967), which published many of Canada's most important contemporary poets. Souster lives in Toronto with his wife Rosalia. 

Nelson Ball adds a short post-script: Ray Souster, the poet of Toronto, went into hospital September 30th and died October 19, 2012. He had two books published in 2012: Easy Does It: New Poems and, co-authored with Les Green, Never Counting the Cost. Both were published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box in Eugenia, Ontario. He worked to near the end.


Anonymous said...

Hi Rob

I would be interested to see more about Raymond Souster's later years.Are there any recent interviews or biographical material available do you know?

judith copithorne said...

Hi Rob Thanks for this piece. I was wondering if anyone knows of any recent interviews or any more recent biographical information regarding Raymond Souster?

Donna Dunlop said...

Hi Rob,
In the last decade of his remarkable life, Raymond Souster and I became close friends. I had started working with him as an editor and compiler of his poems, given that he had become legally blind. He dictated his poems to me, sometimes when we together or when we spoke on the phone (daily). "Have you got time for a squib?" he would say. Before his final cancer diagnosis, we had planned to revive the Contact Press imprint to publish his next book of poems. He died on October 19, 2012, having written his last poem on October 5. In 2014, under the Contact Press imprint, I published "Come Rain, Come Shine: The Last Poems of Raymond Souster." For more information on this book and to see a photo of Ray in his backyard before he moved into the Grenadier Retirement Residence, you can visit the website at

Donna Dunlop