Birney, (Alfred) Earle (1904–1995) By Johnston, Jasmine
Earle Birney was a Canadian poet, novelist, dramatist and professor. Born in 1904 in Calgary, Alberta, he spent his childhood in rural Alberta and British Columbia. His adult life was predominately spent in Canada, the USA, and the United Kingdom, although he travelled extensively. He died in Toronto in 1995. While Birney’s poetics were influenced by his academic training in Old English and Middle English, he frequently experimented with the avant-garde use of typography, orthography, dialect, and sound media. Following studies at the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of London, he accepted a professorship in the Department of English at the University of British Columbia in 1946. His teaching led to the foundation of the Department of Creative Writing at University of British Columbia in 1965. In the same year, however, he departed to the University of Toronto to serve as the school’s first writer-in-residence.