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90 Minutes Live: Getting a read on Dennis Lee

The Story

Is it the violent gore that kids love? Peter Gzowski is speaking with bestselling Canadian children's poet Dennis Lee about the incredible success of his books. Lee tells him the gore has its appeal, but it's also the tenderness and fun of his poems. Between readings from his new book Garbage Delight, Lee says he doesn't calculate what kids might want in a poem -- he just gets in touch with one of the many kids living inside himself. In this 1977 clip from 90 Minutes Live, Lee reflects on the creative process and admits that sometimes it feels more like he's catching hold of a poem that already exists in the ether than inventing something new.

Medium: Television
Program: 90 Minutes Live
Broadcast Date: Dec. 16, 1977
Guest(s): Dennis Lee
Interviewer: Peter Gzowski
Duration: 9:59
I Eat Kids Yum Yum, Being Five, and The Bratty Brother from Garbage Delight. Written by Dennis Lee. Illustrated by Frank Newfeld. Toronto: Macmillan, 1977.
Kahshe or Chicoutimi, and Someday I'll Go to Winnipeg from Alligator Pie. Written by Dennis Lee. Illustrated by Frank Newfeld. Toronto: Macmillan, 1974.

Did You know?

• Born in Toronto in 1939, Dennis Lee has long contributed to the cultural life of the city. A lecturer in English at the University of Toronto in the 1960s, in 1967 Lee co-founded the award-winning small press House of Anansi. He later went on to be an editorial consultant at MacMillan of Canada and McLelland & Stewart.

• In 1972, Lee won the Governor General's Award for poetry for his collection Civil Elegies. But it was in 1974, after he published Alligator Pie, his first bestselling collection of poetry for children, that Lee became a household name in Canada. He subsequently published several other much-loved collections for children, including Garbage Delight, Jelly Belly, Bubblegum Delicious and SoCool. In the 1980s Lee collaborated extensively with Jim Henson, writing most of the lyrics for the songs on CBC Television's Fraggle Rock and working on scripts for The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.


• In 1993, Lee was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2001, he was selected the first ever poet laureate of the city of Toronto. Since that time, he's published a number of well-received books, including collections for adult readers Un (2003) and Yesno (2007). He lives in Toronto with his wife.




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