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The Newfoundland Poetry Anthology: Dialect Literature as Carrier of Cultural Identity

Keywords: Dialect poetry , Poetry anthologies , Newfoundland , O’Leary Poetry Prize , Confederation , 1949 Referendum

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Abstract:

Prior to the 1949 referendum on confederation, Newfoundland political factions on all sides of the debate appealed to a sense of unique cultural identity in their campaign rhetoric. Those who wanted to become a sovereign nation used Newfoundland culture to suggest incompatibility with the mainland, and those in favour of incorporating celebrated the vitality of Newfoundland culture as a guarantee of its survival. While this exchange suggests the culture was a source of pride, many expressed anxiety about how Newfoundland would be perceived by outsiders. This concern is evident in anthologies of poetry published both before and after confederation, especially in terms of dialect. While the language was recognized by the editors as an important and even poetic aspect of Newfoundland culture, the lack of dialect features in the poems themselves speaks to the dilemma marginalized communities face when expressing themselves through a dialect poetry that is in part addressed to an outside audience.

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