Earle Birney was a twentieth century (1904-1995) Canadian poet and legendary teacher. He was nick named “a chronicler of Canada" and is considered one of Canada's finest poets. Based upon his life, Birney has written poems that can be placed into five categories: satires, descriptions of war, nature, love, and narratives.
Birney drew inspiration for his poetry from all parts of his life from growing up in Canada to traveling the world to serving in the military. This makes all of his poetry extremely personal. One common thread throughout his poems is the brevity of life and the struggle of the individual to find a place and meaning in a larger society and history.
Birney always wrote no matter what job he held, but his position as a professor at the University of British Columbia allowed him to entirely focus on writing and teaching. Before teaching at the University of British Columbia, Birney traveled and had a very active political life. This included joining the army during World War Two. Some of his best writing came during these years of war. His love poems are also considered some of the most beautiful poems he wrote.
Birney produced many books of poetry, including Now It's Time, Strait of Anian, Near False Creek Mouth, and The Mammoth Corridors. These poems were read around the world. Birney traveled to France, England, Mexico, Asia, South America, and Australia and wrote for travel magazines. These magazines brought his poetry, and that of other Canadian poets, to almost every part of the world.
After this Birney left the University of British Columbia to become the Writer in Residence at the University of Toronto. This is when Birney began to experiment more with his poetry, writing both concrete poems and sound poems.
Although Earle Birney had a heart attack in 1987 that left him with a brain injury, he did not let this keep him from writing. Some of Birney's best work came from the period after the heart attack. Birney continued to write until the day died, never giving up on the art that gave his life energy and meaning.