OCdts. On Parade

Whatever happened to Frankland Wilmot Davey, teacher, critic, poet and editor?

Researched by E3161 Victoria Edwards (RMC 2003)

Frank Davey taught English at Royal Roads Military College in Victoria from 1963 to 1966 and 1967 to 1969.

He became a professor at York in 1970 and department chair in 1985. He was appointed in 1990 to the Carl F. Klinck Chair of Canadian Literature at the University of Western Ontario in London.

From 1975-1992 he was one of the most active editors of the Coach House Press. He currently lives in Strathroy, Ontario. In his autobiography he writes about his time at RRMC, “Helen and I had married at Christmas of 1962. She was one year from her UBC degree and obliged by degree requirements to complete either on the UBC campus or at the brand new University of Victoria which had been until 1963 a UBC affiliate. She needed to live during 1963-64 only in Vancouver or Victoria.For love, Creeley had written. Mid-waythrough the summer a small notice on the English department bulletin board announced a job in English at Royal Roads Military College, in Victoria; I obtained the job, to my surprise, largely on the basis of my now numerous poetry publications: a book, a guest-edited issue of Louis Dudek’s Delta, and various poems in a dozen journals in three countries.

In Victoria I continued to write poetry, publishing City of the Gulls and Sea in 1964, The Scarred Hull in 1965, Four Myths for Sam Perry in 1970, and writing most of Weeds in 1968-69. I began imagining myself as a poet who would need secure university employment to continue writing, but noticed that tenure usually required a Ph.D. I began looking for a doctoral program that might fit with my writing and steal the least time from it. Avoiding grad schools that required a lot of course work, I enrolled in the summer of 1965 at the University of Southern California, doing the course work in the summers of 1965 and 1 9 66, writing the 16 hours of comps in the winter of 1967, and defending my thesis in August of 1967.

Although I eventually published parts of this thesis (“Theory and Practice in the Black Mountain Poets”) in a chapbook as Five Readings of Olson’s Maximus and as an article in Boundary 2, I had little interest in writing criticism until my chair at Royal Roads, Gerald Morgan, urged me to write papers on Canadian poetry for the 1968 and 1969 meetings of the local chapter of the Humanities Association of Canada, of which I think he was president. I remember protesting that I knew relatively little about Canadian poetry other than the contemporary, and him replying somewhat irrelevantly “but you write it, don’t you?”

My 1968 paper on Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan was soon published by James Reaney’s Alphabet, and my 1969 paper on the politics of E.J. Pratt’s poetry by Canadian Literature, and both reprinted in anthologies a few years later. The Cohen/Dylan paper took me to my first meeting of the Association of Canadian University Teachers of English (ACUTE) at York University in Toronto in 1969. A year later I had a tenurable job at York, as a poet with a PhD who could teach Creative Writing, American poetry, and Canadian literature.”


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