Literature

I don’t know whether you know Mariposa. There is a silence that cannot speak. Out of the gravel there are peonies growing. This is a story a young girl gathers in a car during the early hours of the morning. “Oh God. I feel like a refugee from a Douglas Coupland novel.” These are the […]

History
Literature

The Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry, edited by Valerie Mason-John and Kevan Anthony Cameron (Frontenac House, 2013).The first national anthology of poetry by African Canadians will be released in celebration of Black History Month this February. Published by Frontenac HouseThe Great Black North: Contemporary African Canadian Poetry features the works of over 90 poets across Canada.

The poets are a diverse bunch in terms of form, history and geography. From big cities to small towns, the west coast to the Maritimes and beyond Canada’s borders to countries of origin like Somalia, Nigeria, Jamaica and Kenya, these poets bring a diverse voice and a unique history that weaves together the struggles and victories that have formed the African-Canadian experience.

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feminist-writer
The end of the year: a time when people reflect on the most significant developments in their field, and, honestly, on myriad unrelated occurrences and happenings as well. Where are we going and what have we done? This year, I think the conversation about literature in Canada belongs to Canada’s female readers and writers for a few key reasons.

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Civil War Christmas Thomas Nast
Civil War Christmas, Thomas Nast 1863. Note Santa climbing into the chimney at top left and Santa in a sled pulled by reindeer at top right (public Domain).

Civil War Christmas, Thomas Nast 1863. Note Santa climbing into the chimney at top left and Santa in a sled pulled by reindeer at top right (public Domain).

Christmas holidays: the perfect time to find another reason – if one is ever needed – to settle into a warm corner on a winter’s night with a book. Perhaps with the wood stove on, the tree lights glinting in the corner and a warm mug at my elbow. I’ve been mulling on “the classic” Canadian Christmas story, and have found myself surprised, and then unsurprised, by the difficulty of locating one.

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mark carney

The headline of the Financial Times announcing Canadian Mark Carney’s appointment as Bank of England governor.

Early last week, the Telegraph newspaper published a playful article, saying that the new Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, is an anomaly for being both cosmopolitan and educated as well as a proud “maple syrup-drinking, poutine-loving, moose-spotting, beer-swilling ice hockey fan” from a country “affectionately known as America’s attic.” It then went on to detail Canadians’ many accomplishments, concluding that Canada is “more than a land of Mounties and maple syrup” and encouraging Canadians to be more out and proud about their country. In response, Michael Babad of the Globe and Mail published his own rebuttal, listing 15 things Britons should know about Canada. Things get interesting. Who’s passive-aggressive swipe was better? [Telegraph]

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A selection of Canadian literary prizewinners from 2012.

A selection of Canadian literary prizewinners from 2012.

Congratulations are due to the winners of the major literary prizes of the season. Not only will their publishers sell copies – increases from the thousands to the, well, dozens, depending on the genre – but their names will circulate more freely in the public sphere, their reputations increase substantially, and so they will find and delight more readers. We readers are, ultimately, the beneficiaries of these prizes when we find a new author to love, when we are introduced to a new genre we may investigate and savour for decades to come, when we introduce other readers in turn to books that please them.

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Margaret Atwood and Naomi Alderman’s new serial novel

Canadian literature has long had a thematic interest in the uncanny, the strange, the frightening, the unknown. From the magical and sometimes terrifying inhabitants of First Nations myths and legends, to the paranoiac claustrophobia imbuing early literature, identified by Northrop Frye as the “garrison mentality,” to the continued dread within contemporary literature of the myriad options for death and damage both Canadian wilderness and urban jungle afford, Canadian literary output can seem fixated on terror. And it’s certainly not the only artistic medium with such a focus – the Canadian film world has David Cronenberg, of course, and a new film festival called Blood in the Snow. Read More

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Literature

It’s that time of year again: autumn is upon us, with the tang of decay in the air and the scent of paper burning in the woodstove. And paper, bound into books and printed in interesting and artisanal fonts, is the order of the day for lovers of Canadian literature in autumn. Forthwith: the shortlisted nominees for the three principal English-language fiction prizes of the season, for your readerly delectation, and possibly a quick trip to the local bookmaker on the corner.

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History
Literature
thomas chandler haliburton
Thomas Chandler Haliburton

Thomas Chandler Haliburton in a lithograph by E.U. Eddis (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-6086).

“He drank like a fish.” “The early bird gets the worm.” “It’s raining cats and dogs.” “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” “As quick as a wink.” “Six of one and half a dozen of the other.” “There’s many a true word said in jest.” These, and many other expressions, colour our vernacular without our being aware that the satiric voice behind them belonged to Thomas Chandler Haliburton, a prominent Nova Scotian.

Haliburton was born on December 17, 1796 in Windsor, NS, the son of a judge and grandson of a lawyer. An upper crust Tory, he was also a successful lawyer and businessman and was appointed to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. He held office in England after his retirement from the bench. He was wealthy, respected and influential, but, despite his accomplishments, he was deeply frustrated.

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Literature

Congratulations to Ken Babstock , who last evening won the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize for a Canadian poet, for his fourth collection, Methodist Hatchet. Babstock was in the running with much-respected poets Jan Zwicky (for Forge, and whose Songs for Relinquishing the Earth won the 1999 Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry) and Phil Hall […]

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leonard-cohen

Leonard Cohen was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize on May 14, an honour that has been called “the Nobel Prize of the Arts.” The prize confirmed what the world already knows: that he is a beloved and respected performer, a Canadian whose fame and reach are global. His words and his music are a part of our lives.

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titanic-poems

A line from Thomas Hardy’s “Convergence of the Twain.”

The sinking of the Titanic has resonated now for 100 years in the consciousness of Canadians. The grief, wonder, and curiosity the disaster continues to inspire has been the impetus for countless literary works. While the majority of these are factual or biographical, significant imaginative works of poetry and prose have been produced, works that strive to understand the psychological, social and personal effects of the disaster. Here, then, is a survey of some of the most important works of poetry produced on the subject of the sinking of the Titanic, poetry read and loved by, and for the most part produced by, Canadians.

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