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A. M. Klein (BBHS ’26)

1909, Ratno, Ukraine – 1972, Montreal, Quebec 

A(braham) M(oses) Klein came to Montreal as an infant with his immigrant parents. He was brought up in a religious home, where family ties were close and affectionate. The influence of his home and of the closely-knit Jewish community during his formative years was reinforced by his biblical and Talmudic studies.

Upon graduating from BBHS, Klein enrolled at McGill University where he studied Political Science, Economics and Classical Studies from 1926 until 1930. During his time at McGill he and his peer David Lewis, founded the McGilliad, the University’s literary magazine. He also began to publish poetry and write and edit for the Zionist youth organization.

After graduating he studied law at the Université de Montréal, taking his degree in 1933, He practicied law in Montreal until he resigned in 1956.

Klein’s career as a poet began early. During his years at McGill he published poems in The Menorah Journal, The Canadian Forum, Poetry (Chicago), and elsewhere. His interest was quickened by his association with the “Montreal Group” of poets and writers, which included A. J. M. Smith, F. R. Scott, Leo Kennedy, and Leon Edel and was centered at McGill. In his first volume of poetry, Hath Not a Jew published in 1940, Klein revealed the richness of the Jewish heritage and the sufferings and aspirations of his people.

Klein was awarded the Governor-General’s Medal for Poetry in 1949 for his volume The Rocking Chair and Other Poems. Eight years later the Royal Society of Canada bestowed the Lorne Pierce Medal for poetry on Klein for his poetic achievement.

Klein’s reputation as a writer rests primarily on his poetry. There is little mention made of his short stories, although he wrote many over a period of 25 years. Most of them appeared in small magazines of limited circulation and brief duration. The subjects were varied, the majority reflecting some aspect of Jewish life and folklore.

Following a journey through Israel, Europe, and North Africa sponsored by the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1949, Klein wrote his novel The Second Scroll which may well be regarded as his greatest single literary achievement.

Klein also applied his special literary gifts to journalism. His major contribution in this field was as editor of The Canadian Jewish Chronicle, from 1938 to 1955, which was the foremost Anglo-Jewish journal in Canada. He wrote two or three editorials weekly and a full page of commentary on topical events. As a journalist in the days of threatening Nazism and struggling Zionism, he became the spokesman for the Jewish community. During this time he worked as a ghostwriter and public-relations consultant for Samuel Bronfman, was a visiting lecturer in poetry at McGill (1945-48), and was affiliated with the Preview Group of Montréal poets.

Zionism, the Holocaust, Quebec and Klein’s travels influenced his work. He is often cited as one of Montreal’s most famous poets, and as a major influence to fellow Baron Byng alumni and poet Irving Layton. He contributed significantly to the emergence of a modern, distinctively Canadian literature.

Click here to see a selection of his most well-known publications.

 

SOURCES AND LINKS

A.M. Klein, Canadian Poet, Encyclopedia Britannica Online
A.M. Klein, Canadian Poetry, University of Toronto Online
The Canadian Encyclopedia
The Poetry Foundation