He was educated at Bishop's University, earning a B.A. (1st class honours and winner of the Governor General's medal) in 1929 and an M.A. in 1930, with a thesis on Keats and Shelley. He also completed a B.A. at Keble College, Oxford in 1933.
He taught at Bishop's University from 1963 until his retirement in 1979. He also worked as: music master at Bishop's College School, 1920-30; teacher of English St. Alban's School for Boys, Brockville, Ontario, 1933-1934; tutor and journalist in London, England, 1935-1938; and music critic, CBC, from 1960.
In 1942, Gustafson edited the seminal Anthology of Canadian Poetry, the first survey of Canadian verse to include modernist poetry, which developed into the Penguin Book of Canadian Verse in 1958 (also edited by Gustafson), both volumes reflecting his extensive studies on the history of Canadian poetry.
Gustafson wrote over 20 volumes of poetry and prose.
Gustafson's early poetry owes a significant debt to Gerard Manley Hopkins (as evidenced in The Golden Chalice (1935) and Alfred the Great (1937)), while Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and W.B. Yeats were important influences on his later work.
His views on poetry are documented in essays collected in Plummets and Other Partialities (1986), and in letters to W.W.E. Ross published as A Literary Friendship in 1984. He also corresponded with John Sutherland.
- The Golden Chalice. London: Ivor Nicholson & Watson, 1935.
- Alfred the Great. London: Michael Joseph, 1937.
- Poems. Sewanee, TN: University of the South, 1940.
- Epithalamium in Time of War. New York: privately published / printed by L.R. White, 1941.
- Lyrics Unromantic. New York: privately published, 1942.
- Flight into Darkness: Poems. New York: Pantheon, 1944.
- Quebec, Late Autumn. Offprint from Queen's Quarterly, 1950.
- Quebec Winter Scene. Offprint from Dalhousie Review, Autumn 1952.
- Hard Litany. Offprint from Dalhousie Review, 1953.
- Rivers Among Rocks. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1960.
- Rocky Mountain Poems. Vancouver: Klanak, 1960.
- Sift in an Hourglass. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1966.
- Ixion's Wheel: Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1969.
- Nocturne: Prague 1968: Poem. Lennoxville, QC: Centennial Theatre, 1970.
- Selected Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972.
- Theme and Variations for Sounding Brass. Sherbrooke, QC: Progressive Publications, 1972.
- Fire on Stone. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1974.
- Corners in the Glass. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1977.
- Soviet Poems: Sept. 13 to Oct. 5, 1976. Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1978.
- Gradations of Grandeur: A poem. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis, 1979.
- Sequences: Poems. Windsor, ON: Black Moss, 1979.
- Landscape with Rain. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1980.
- Nine Poems. Toronto: League of Canadian Poets, 1980.
- The Remarkable Heavens. Lantzville, BC: Oolichan Books, 1980.
- Conflicts of Spring. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1981.
- The Moment is All: Selected poems, 1944-83. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1983.
- Solidarnosc: Prelude. Sherbrooke, QC.: Progressive Publications, 1983.
- At the Ocean's Verge: Selected poems. Redding Ridge, CT: Black Swan (Literary Series), 1984.
- Directives of Autumn. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984.
- Impromptus. Lantzville, BC: Oolichan Books, 1984.
- Twelve Landscapes. Toronto: Shaw Street Press, 1985.
- Manipulations on Greek Themes: Poems (with engravings by Oswald Turner). Toronto: Roger Ascham, 1986.
- Plummets, and other partialities. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis, 1987.
- Collected Poems. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis, 1987.
- Winter Prophecies. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987.
- The Celestial Corkscrew, and other strategies. Oakville, ON, & New York: Mosaic, 1989.
- Shadows in the Grass: Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1991.
- Configurations at Midnight. Toronto: ECW Press, 1992.
- Collected Poems: Volume 3. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis, 1994.
- Tracks in the Snow. Lantzville, BC: Oolichan, 1994.
- Visions Fugitive. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1996.
- The Brazen Tower: Stories (illustrated by Bill Jardine). Tillsonburg, ON: Roger Ascham Press, 1974.
- The Vivid Air: Collected stories. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis, 1980.
- Poetry and Canada: A guide to reading. Ottawa: Canadian Legion Educational Services, 1945.
- Anthology of Canadian Poetry (English). Harmonsworth, Middlesex, UK, Baltimore, MD, & Toronto: Penguin, 1942.
- Voices: A quarterly of poetry (Canadian issue). New York: Vinal, 1943.
- A Little Anthology of Canadian Poets. Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1943.
- Canadian Accent: A collection of stories and poems by contemporary Canadian writers from Canada. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK, & New York, Penguin, 1944.
- Penguin Book of Canadian Verse. Harmonsworth, Middlesex, UK, & Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1958; 2nd edition, 1967; 3rd edition, 1984.
- A Literary Friendship: The correspondence of Ralph Gustafson and W.W.E. Ross (edited by Bruce Whiteman). Toronto: ECW, 1984. ISBN 0-920802-57-5
- McCarthy, Dermot. A Poetics of Place: The poetry of Ralph Gustafson. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-7735-0815-5
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Neil Besner, Ralph Gustafson, Canadian Encyclopedia, March 4, 2015, Historica Canada. Web, Apr. 10, 2017.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Biography, Biography, Ralph Gustafson Electronic Literary Papers, University of Saskatchewan. Web, Apr. 10, 2017.
- ↑ Winter Prophecies: The poetry of Ralph Gustafson (1988), Internet Movie Database. Web, Apr. 10, 2017.
- ↑ "In the Centre Ring . . . The Fiddlehead's 21st Literary Contest," TheFiddlehead.ca, Web, June 15, 2011.
- ↑ Search results = au:Ralph Gustafson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Sep. 1, 2014.
- "The Story of the Penguin" (on the Penguin Book of Canadian Verse), Canadian Poetry.
- Ralph Gustafson in the Canadian Encyclopedia.
- Ralph Gustafson biography, University of Saskatchewan.
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