Imperial Commerce and the Canadian Muse: The Hudson’s Bay Company’s Poetic Advertising Campaign of 1966-1972
This essay explores the relationship between commercial publicity and poetic production in a series of advertisements devised by the head of publicity for The Hudson’s Bay Company, Mrs. Barbara Kilvert, between 1966 and 1972. Featured poets included Al Purdy, John Newlove, Alden Nowlan, Phyllis Gotlieb, A.J.M. Smith, Miriam Waddington, Joan Finnegan, James Reaney, Louis Dudek, Gwendolyn MacEwen, DG Jones, Raymond Souster, Ralph Gustafson, Gustave Lamarche, Fernand Ouellette and Jean-Guy Pilon. The advertisements were to appear in such respected periodicals as Quarry, The Tamarack Review, Queen’s Quarterly, Canadian Literature, The Malahat Review, Cité Libre, and Liberté. We examine how this campaign fitted into the history of HBC’s cultivation of its company image, and particularly its desire to identify itself with the nation it served. Did the initiative extend those accustomed patterns, or did it represent a radical new departure? And—equally important—how might such a use of poetry for promotional purposes mediate readers’ responses to the poems thus used?