Canadian Redux-Happy Canada Day

Quick Hits for July 1, 2011


Having just returned from the “Bonjour, Hi” capital of the world, Montreal, I wanted to celebrate work by Canadian writers and poets.  If you’re looking for a quick fix of writer’s on the rise, try the April issue of Words Without Borders.  Some fantastic short stories with a definitive Quebecois tone.  If you’re in search of the more rustic side to Canada, I read a book of short stories(reviewed here) which touched me and left me wanting to discover the mercurial landscape of Canada and its inhabitants.  The book is Welcome to Canada by David Carpenter.  The soft spoken winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Johanna Skibsrud, read from her poignant novel, The Sentimentalists.

It would be difficult to not mention the heavy hitters that hail from Canada that, although already famous, deserve mentioning because of their contributions to the canon of world literature.  This is a very subjective list but these are the Canadian writers I come back to time after time(the books I’ve chosen are what I would recommend if you were to only read one work of that particular writer):

Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood


tobiography of Red by Anne Carson

Poems and Songs by Leonard Cohen

Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant

Mr. Sandman by Barbara Gowdy

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro


The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart

On to poetry…No, of course I would not leave out poetry.  That would be pure blasphemy.  Although I feel alien when it comes to the world of poetry and especially Canadian poetry, I can recommend a few that have impacted me in some way.  Let me recycle a video of Quebecois poet,
Stephane Despatie, whom I saw at the Guadalajara International Book Fair:

For beautiful editions of poetry books (as well as fiction) featuring woodcut illustrations, Porcupine’s Quill is the Canadian press to visit.  My recent favorite is A Suit of Nettles by James Reaney which won the Governor General’s award for poetry in 1958.

While I was in Montreal and treated to some of the great local talent, I was impressed by Jason Camlot’s erudite and quirky sense of humor.  He had me at “facebooking villanelles.”  He read several poems and this was my favorite, “The Debaucher”, which you can peep in toto

Jon Paul Fiorentino gave a touching tribute to his friend and mentor, Robert Kroestch, who was unfortunately killed in a car accident that day before.

Le piece de resistance was a poet that I am not sure I have the mind to understand, but took over the room with his booming sound poetry.  Ladies and gents, Christian Bok.  I can’t explain, you just have to

I look forward to visiting Canada again to see other parts and to experience its literary depth.  Also, if you have a favorite Canadian writer or poet, why not let us know? 

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