Douglas LePan

Douglas LePan

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Douglas Valentine LePan, OC
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

, FRSC
Royal Society of Canada
The Royal Society of Canada , may also operate under the more descriptive name RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada , is the oldest association of scientists and scholars in Canada...

 (25 May 1914 – 27 November 1998) was a Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 diplomat, poet, novelist and professor of literature.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, LePan was educated at the University of Toronto
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

, at Harvard (where he also taught briefly in the late 1930s), and at Merton College, Oxford University. During the Second World War he was on staff at the Canadian High Commission in London and then served in the Canadian Army as an artilleryman during the Italian campaign. He joined the Canadian diplomatic service in 1946, and during his years as a diplomat served in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 (as special assistant to Lester Pearson in the late 1940s) and in Washington, as well as in Ottawa
Ottawa
Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

. He was formally in the employ of the Department of External Affairs until 1959, though for several years during that time he was seconded by the Department of Finance to serve as Secretary for the Royal Commission on Canada's Economic Prospects (the "Gordon Commission"); his work drafting the multi-volume Report of the commission was widely praised.

LePan left the diplomatic service in 1959 to return to academic life; he taught at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Kingston, Ontario
Kingston, Ontario is a Canadian city located in Eastern Ontario where the St. Lawrence River flows out of Lake Ontario. Originally a First Nations settlement called "Katarowki," , growing European exploration in the 17th Century made it an important trading post...

, and at the University of Toronto
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, situated on the grounds that surround Queen's Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada...

, where he was Principal of University College (1964–1970) and then University Professor and Senior Fellow at Massey College
Massey College
Massey College is a postgraduate residential college at the University of Toronto, established in 1963 with an endowment by the Massey Foundation. Similar to All Souls College, Oxford, members of Massey College are nominated from the university community, and are elected by and as fellows of the...

.

LePan's wartime experience with the Canadian Army in Italy inspired much of his poetry and one novel, The Deserter (1964). LePan is one of only a few people (Michael Ondaatje and George Bowering are two others) to have won the Governor General's Award both for poetry (1953 for The Net and the Sword) and fiction (1964 for The Deserter, in a highly controversial win over Margaret Laurence's The Stone Angel).

In 1982 LePan published his first volume of poetry in almost 30 years (Something Still to Find), and in 1990 he created something of a sensation with Far Voyages, a volume largely composed of gay love poetry. (LePan had married, in 1948 to the former Sarah Chambers; the two remained together until 1971 and had two children, but the marriage was a difficult one, not least of all over issues relating to sexual orientation.)

LePan's 1989 book of memoirs Bright Glass of Memory recounts his involvement with several leading lights of the twentieth century, including John Maynard Keynes and T.S. Eliot. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada
Order of Canada
The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order, admission into which is, within the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada, the second highest honour for merit...

 in 1998; among his other awards were a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Royal Society of Canada
Royal Society of Canada
The Royal Society of Canada , may also operate under the more descriptive name RSC: The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada , is the oldest association of scientists and scholars in Canada...

's Lorne Pierce Medal
Lorne Pierce Medal
The Lorne Pierce Medal is awarded every two years by the Royal Society of Canada to recognize achievement of special significance and conspicuous merit in imaginative or critical literature written in either English or French...

(1976), and several honorary degrees. He remains well known for his war poetry (long poems from the post-war period such as "Tuscan Villa" and "Elegy for the Romagna," as well as shorter, punchier 1980s poems such as "Below Monte Cassino" in which he recalled the events of a generation earlier); for his poems relating to the landscape of Georgian Bay in Ontario; for his love poems; and for lyric poems in which the poet's passion for the natural world is infused with the suggestion of homoerotic passion ("Coureurs de Bois," "A Country Without a Mythology"). His work has been included in many anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Poetry, Canadian Literature in English: Texts and Contexts, The Harbrace Anthology of Poetry, The Broadview Anthology of Poetry, and Modern Canadian Poets.

Selected works

  • The Wounded Prince (1948)
  • The Net and the Sword (1953)
  • The Deserter (1964)
  • Bright Glass of Memory (1979)
  • Something Still To Find (1982)
  • Weathering It: Complete Poems 1948-1987 (1987)
  • Far Voyages (1990)
  • Macalister, or Dying in the Dark (1995)