An inspiration and leader for many New Brunswick poets and academics, Frederick William Cogswell was born on a farm in East Centerville, New Brunswick in 1917. Although his appreciation for literature began while he was attending a one-room schoolhouse near the farm where he first began reading and writing poetry, Cogswell did not attend college right away following his graduation. Instead, he taught for a few years in rural New Brunswick schools, and in 1940 decided to enlist in the forestry corps. He was sent overseas to Scotland where he met his wife Margaret Hynes, a nurse, during one of his leaves. Upon returning to Canada in 1945, Cogswell enrolled at the University of New Brunswick under a program for veterans. He was immediately successful, being awarded the Bliss Carman Award for Poetry in both 1945 and 1947. He received his BA in 1949, and his MA soon after. Cogswell then spent two years at the University of Edinburgh obtaining his PhD. He accepted his first job at UNB in 1952, and would spend the rest of his career teaching in the English Department where he had plenty of opportunity to meet and support Fredericton poets.
In addition to teaching, Cogswell took over as the head editor of UNB’s Fiddlehead magazine soon after his arrival in 1952, and would remain a major contributor to the magazine for over thirty years. His devotion to the dissemination of New Brunswick poetry, and his personal support of the poets themselves, earned Cogswell the loving nickname “the friend of poets.” In 1954 he released his first poetry collection, The Stunted Strong, which depicted the lives of rural farmers and the struggles particular to their work. Cogswell was also active in the effort to provide access to Acadian and French literature through translation, a project he believed could bridge two distinct cultures through a shared understanding of each other’s greatest form of expression.
The first of many awards recognizing his contributions, Cogswell received the Order of Canada in 1981. When he retired from UNB in 1983, the university honored Cogswell with the title of professor emeritus. Over the next five years, Cogswell received three honorary doctorates for outstanding achievements in the arts from St. Francis Xavier University, King’s College in Halifax, and Mount Allison University. In 1995 he was awarded the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in Literary Arts, a prize named after one of Cogswell’s most devoted students. During his lifetime, Cogswell released over two dozen poetry collections, and his poetry has been published in many anthologies and literary magazines. Cogswell moved to Vancouver to be with his daughter Kathleen in 2002, and died there in 2004 at the age of 87.
For More Information:
Atlantic Canadian Poetry Archive: http://www.stu-acpa.com/fred-cogswell.html
New Brunswick Literary Encyclopedia: http://w3.stu.ca/stu/sites/nble/c/cogswell_frederick_william.html
Fred Cogswell: The Many-Dimensioned Self: https://cogswell.lib.unb.ca/content/biography
The Stunted Strong. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1954.
The Haloed Tree. Toronto: Ryerson, 1956.
Descent from Eden. Toronto: Ryerson, 1959.
Star-People. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1968.
Immortal Plowman. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1969.
In Praise of Chastity. The New Brunswick Chapbooks # 12. Fredericton: University of New Brunswick, 1970.
The Chains of Liliput. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1971.
The House Without a Door. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1973.
Light Bird of Life: Selected Poems. Ed. Peter Thomas. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1974.
Against Perspective. Fredericton: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1977.
Our Stubborn Strength. Toronto: League of Canadian Poets, 1980.
Pearls. Charlottetown: Ragweed, 1983.
Meditations: 50 Sestinas. Charlottetown: Ragweed, 1986.
An Edge to Life. Saint John, NB: Purple Wednesday Society, 1987.
The Best Notes Merge. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1988.
Black and White Tapestry. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1989.
Watching an Eagle. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1991.
When the Right Light Shines. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1992.
In Praise of Old Music. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1992.
In My Own Growing. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1993.
As I See It. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1994.
The Trouble With Light. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1996.
Folds. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1997.
A Double Question. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 1999.
With Vision Added. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2000.
Deeper Than Mind. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2001.
Dried Flowers. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2002.
Ghosts. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2002.
Later in Chicago. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2003.
The Kindness of Stars. Nepean, ON: Borealis, 2004
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Forsythe.