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Gwendolyn Macewen Biography

(1941–87), Canadian Forum, The Rising Fire, A Breakfast for Barbarians, The Armies of the Moon

Canadian poet, novelist, and short-story writer, born in Toronto; her poetry first appeared in Canadian Forum several years before she left school at the age of eighteen to devote herself to writing. The Rising Fire (1963), her first substantial collection of verse, was followed by eight further volumes, which include A Breakfast for Barbarians (1966), The Armies of the Moon (1972), The T. E. Lawrence Poems (1982), Earthlight: Selected Poems (1982) and Afterworlds (1987); MacEwen's poetry combines great rhythmical and tonal vitality with imagery that is at once vividly particular and resonantly imaginative. Much of her work seems to create a mythology of transcendent order out of the experiences and language of the everyday. Her novels Julian the Magician (1963), a treatment of hermeticism in the early Renaissance, and King of Egypt, King of Dreams (1971), based on the life of the pharaoh Akhenaton, are similarly concerned with transcending limited conceptions of reality. Her collections of short-stories Noman (1972) and Noman's Land (1985) place their magician protagonist in a contemporary Canadian setting. In addition to her work for children and the travel book Mermaids and Ikons: A Greek Summer (1978), MacEwen wrote verse-dramas, the best-known being Terror and Erebus (contained in Afterworlds), a treatment of Franklin's attempt to find the Northwest Passage, and a radical adaptation of Euripides' The Trojan Women (performed 1978, published 1979).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Earl Lovelace Biography to Madmen and Specialists