Now living in nearby Strathroy, Davey grew up in BC and studied at UBC where in 1961 he co-founded with George Bowering and Fred Wah the influential and contentious poetry newsletter TISH. His first volume of poetry, in 1962, was described as ‘the act of the moment’ rather than poetry as the commonplace attempt 'to express ... feelings.' In 1965 he launched the avant-garde poetry and criticism journal Open Letter, and, with the assistance of bpNichol, developed it into what many still see as Canada's most important forum for discussion and examination of innovative and experimental ideas and texts.
Davey obtained his PhD from the University of Southern California in 1968. With the encouragement of George Woodcock, he began writing literary criticism, a body of work from the 1970s to the ‘90s which would be described as 'the most individual and influential ever written in Canada.'
His most important early contribution was his withering 1974 critique, 'Surviving the Paraphrase,which discredited thematic criticism in Canada, including that of Northrop Frye, D.G. Jones and Margaret Atwood.
Over the years, the stance Davey has taken in his criticism has occasionally put him into conflict with the Canadian literary establishment. For example, he has described Canadian literary and academic prizes as institutional rewards for 'banality and careerism'. On the other hand, he has often been seen as a 'poet’s poet'.
Through his books of poetry, his literary and cultural criticism and his rich range of essays on diverse topics, Davey has been a major figure in introducing the idea and practice of postmodernism to writers in Canada.
So far Davey has published 27 books of poetry, six since 2000, the latest being ‘Spectres of London, Ont’ (2012), which we will be reviewing here. He also has numerous non-fiction titles.
Davey was a featured poet, along with Tom Cull, at the April 24th special reading/open mic of London Open Mic Poetry Night in celebration of National Poetry Night.
Our interview with Frank Davey
In-depth interview by 'Open Book'
Four Poems by Frank Davey
Review of his newest book, 'Spectres of London Ont'