Canadian Poets and Fiction Writers
On Their Art and Writing Life


From Canadian Links of Interest to Writers

Essays, Memoirs, and Interviews

Margaret Atwood
Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing

"What is the role of the writer? … Looking back on her own childhood and the development of her writing career, Margaret Atwood examines the metaphors that writers of fiction and poetry have used to explain—or excuse—their activities, looking at what roles they have chosen to play. The lightness of her touch is offset by a seriousness about the purpose and the pleasures of writing, and by a deep familiarity with the myths and traditions of western literature."—Anchor Canada, 2003 (ISBN-13: 978-0385659840)

Michelle Berry and Natalee Caple (editors)
The Notebooks: Interviews and New Fiction from Contemporary Writers

"The interviews ... bring us into the writer's world, revealing the passion and inspiration that motivates these young writers, as well as the hardships they endure in pursuit of their art ... how [they] work, structure their days, and order their physical space to facilitate the act of writing: Catherine Bush, Eliza Clark, Lynn Coady, Lynn Crosbie, Steven Heighton, Yann Martel, Derek McCormack, Hal Niedzviecki, Andrew Pyper, Michael Redhill, Eden Robinson, Russell Smith, Esta Spalding, Michael Turner, R.M. Vaughan, Michael Winter, Marnie Woodrow."—Anchor Canada, 2002 (ISBN-13: 978-0385658270)

Leonard Cohen
Harry Rasky's The Song of Leonard Cohen: Portrait of a Poet, a Friendship & a Film

"the diaries and interviews upon which the [1982 documentary] film is based ... we gain important new insight into the perplexing and critical period of the making of the artist ... also contains ... new materials on Bob Dylan and the peculiar interconnections between the two poets and songwriters who have altered the course of music history and defined the sensibility of two generations."—Mosaic Press, 2001 (ISBN-13 9-7808896274-2-0)

Anne Compton
Meetings with Maritime Poets: Interviews

"Maritime poets explore the relationship between poetry and place ... questions about the writing process, their attachment to place, and the nature and significance of poetry in the 21st century." Poets: George Elliott Clarke, Carole Langille, Sue Goyette, Thomas O'Grady , Elisabeth Harvor, Alan Wilson , Sue MacLeod, Peter Sanger, Brent MacLaine, John MacKenzie, Brian Bartlett, Bob Moore, Liliane Welch, Ross Leckie, John Smith, Anne Simpson.—Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006 (ISBN-13: 978-1550419962)

Don Cullen
The Bohemian Embassy: Memories and Poems

"Don Cullen is well-known in Toronto as a man dedicated to the arts. As the founder of one of the first coffee houses in Toronto, The Bohemian Embassy, he introduced the city to artists and authors from Ian Tyson to Margaret Atwood. In this collection he remembers some of the times and people he has known and for the first time shares his own poetic works."—Wolsak and Wynn, 2006 (ISBN-13: 978-1894987103)

Beverley Daurio (editor)
Dream Elevators: Interviews with Canadian Poets

"In these remarkable conversations with poets, readers will rediscover the wonder that drives the imagination. Angels, cyberspace and prayer; the sex lives of vegetables and medieval monks who lived in castles; travels across land and through ideas; all these and more are explored in this collection. Leonard Cohen, Margaret Atwood, Phyllis, Webb, Erin Moure and ten other fascinating poets speak openly about their practice, their writing and their lives."—The Mercury Press, 2000 (ISBN-13: 978-1551280714)

Mike Doyle
Paper Trombones: Notes on Poetics
"Mike Doyle shares musings on poetry—his own and others'—drawn from informal journal notes of the past thirty years.... fascinating encounters with prominent literary figures—from Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath to Basil Bunting, Anne Sexton, Robert Creeley, James Wright, Robert Bly, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, George Woodcock and various Canadian poets ... Mike Doyle is a personable guide to the currents of contemporary literature. Pound, Williams, Stevens, Modernism and the language and Black Mountain schools."—Ekstasis Editions, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1897430057)

Timothy Findley
Inside Memory: Pages from a Writer's Notebook

"Drawing from his personal journal entries and eclectic reflections, recollections and even an out-take from one of his early novels, the award-winning author shares his extraordinary life with his readers. From his early days as an actor in London's West End, through to his transition to a writer, Findley entertains with the fascinating people and real life settings that have shaped his life. At the same time, he reveals the creative landscape of his mind and his work."—HarperCollins Canada, 1999 (ISBN-13: 978-0006386193)

Geoff Hancock (editor)
Canadian Writers at Work: Interviews

"This book includes ten of the best interviews—with Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, Bharati Mukherjee, Mavis Gallant, Josef Skvorecky, and others—from Canadian Fiction Magazine. Discussing modernist and postmodernist techniques, the influence of biography, the morality of art, the pressures put on writing by the contemporary world, and what it means to live in and write about Canada, these classic interviews, many out of print until now, provide invigorating debate on Canadian literature today."—Oxford University Press, 1987 (ISBN-13: 978-0195406382)

Jurgen Hesse (editor)
Voices of Change: Immigrant Writers Speak Out

"A collection of interviews with 15 immigrant Canadian writers, Voices of Change seeks to identify the influence Canadian society has had on their development as writers. What emerges is a compelling portrait of the changing face of Canadian literature ... includes interviews with Sadhu Binning, Jan Drabek, Alberto Manguel, and Jim Wong-Chu."—Arsenal Pulp Press, 1990 (ISBN-13: 978-0889782211)

Doris Hillis
Plainspeaking: Interviews with Saskatchewan Writers

"Interviews with 13 Saskatchewan writers: Sharon Butala, Maria Campbell, Elizabeth Brewster, Andrew Suknaski, Joan Givner, and others. Biographical sketch with photographs included."—Coteau Books, 1988 (ISBN-13 978-0919926868)

Doris Hillis
Voices and Visions: Interviews with Saskatchewan Writers

"thirteen biographies of Saskatchewan writers [including Ken Mitchell, Anne Szumigalski, Patrick Lane, Edna Alford, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and Brenda Riches], each followed by a four or five page interview ... early life and place of residence and working methods are discussed ... [and] artistic theories and ideas about the importance of poetry, short stories, and the influence of Saskatchewan writers' groups and writing courses." With an introduction by Eli Mandel.—Coteau Books, 1985 (ISBN-13: 978-0919926462)

Susan Ioannou
Holding True:
Essays on Being a Writer

"If you've ever doubted yourself as a writer, this book is for you. From three decades of editing, teaching, and writing fiction and poetry, Ioannou shares the thorns and honey of the literary life. She knows the aesthetic and personal challenges a literary artist faces. ‘When we write, we are up against the wall. Who am I? What do I feel? What do I think? Writing forces us to be alone with our thoughts, to work through the wrinkles of our own living.'"—Wordwrights Canada, 2008 (ISBN-13: 978-0930835296)

Irving Layton
Waiting for the Messiah

"With the vitality, passion, and intimacy that characterizes his verse, his memoir—covering the years between 1912 and 1946—sheds welcome light on Irving Layton's public persona ... and paints a picture of a colourful life, from its beginnings in Montreal's Jewish ghetto ... Layton's ‘crazy need for experience' drove him to embrace or challenge all that he encountered, and he recounts his first experiences with sex and death, his associations with literary friends and rivals, his relationships with women. Equally compelling is his description of Montreal in the forties as a city crackling with literary and political energies."—McClelland & Stewart, 2006 (ISBN-13: 978-0771049521)

Tim Lilburn (editor)
Thinking and Singing: Poetry and the Practice of Philosophy

"Philosophy, according to the German poet Novalis, is really homesickness; it is the urge to be at home everywhere. What does it mean to think about home? Where is home? Is it a house of language? Is it a root cellar buried in the slope of a sand hill? Home, like rhythm, like metaphor, like myth, like wisdom, is one of a number of openings into the contrapuntal exploration of poetry and philosophy …[by] Robert Bringhurst, Dennis Lee, Tim Lilburn, Don McKay, and Jan Zwicky." With an introduction by Brian Bartlett.—Cormorant Books, 2002 (ISBN-13: 978-1896951386)

Carol Malyon (editor)
Imagination in Action

"Canadian painters and sculptors, musicians and composers, poets [and other creative folks] ... discuss what they do, and why, and how they do it ... Trying to understand the world and our place in it; to bring order out of chaos; to figure out who we are, where we are, what we are doing here." Writers include Rod Anderson, bill bissett, Joe Blades, Allan Briesmaster, Sonja Dunn, Richard Harrison, Susan Helwig, Marvyne Jenoff, Penn Kemp, Merike Lugus, Steven McCabe, Stan Rogal, Ken Stange, and George Swede.—The Mercury Press, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1551281322)

Susan McMaster
The Gargoyle's Left Ear: Writing in Ottawa

"a unique blend of vignettes, reminiscence, and poetry from well known Ottawa writer Susan McMaster ... We follow McMaster through such projects as Bookware: Ottawa Valley Poets, Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action, Random Acts of Poetry, and Poetry in the Park; and sit down beside her in her blue room as she picks up her pen. What makes a writer? This genial and engaging narrative offers a rare chance to look inside a poet's mind as she writes, ‘mouth full / of roar'."—Black Moss Press, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-0887534430)

Eugene McNamara
Irving's Coat

"breaking up a fight between Len Gasparini and Irving Layton, letting Layton borrow his coat because someone swiped his ... and establishing one of the first creative writing departments in Canadian universities ... involved in the emergence of a literary scene in the 1960s and 1970s in southwestern Ontario, McNamara writes about those early publishing years, putting out a magazine called Mainline and starting the Windsor Review. Into this story, he writes about not only Layton, but Purdy, W. O. Mitchell, Tom Wayman and others."—Black Moss Press, 2007 (ISBN 13: 978-0887534218)

John Metcalf
An Aesthetic Underground: A Literary Memoir

"In this much-anticipated memoir, Metcalf takes us on a personal journey through his life and those influences that inform his own literary aesthetic. Here is a fascinating story peopled with the likes of Alice Munro, Norman Levine, Ernest Hemingway, John Newlove, Hugh Hood, Keath Fraser, Irving Layton, Mavis Gallant, and many other literary luminaries. By turns humorous and iconoclastic and brimming with intelligence and brio, this highly readable memoir provides much-needed perspective on the art of editing, literary values, and the current state of Canadian literary publishing."—Thomas Allen Publishers, 2003 (ISBN-13: 978-0887621215)

John Metcalf and Claire Wilkshire (editors)
Writers Talking

"everything a collection of personal essays by writers should be: insightful, meditative, and above all, entertaining ... a fascinating mix of personal history, theories about writing, and exemplary fiction. What's most interesting about the book is the ways in which almost all the writers work out what it means to be Canadian writers." Writers are: Michael Winter, Steven Heighton, Mary Borsky, Terry Griggs, Lisa Moore, K.D. Miller, Elise Levine, and Annabel Lyon.—The Porcupine's Quill, 2003 (ISBN-13: 978-0889842748)

Bruce Meyer and Brian O'Riordan (editors)
In Their Words: Interviews with 14 Canadian Writers

Included, along with their photographs and brief bibliographies, are poets Milton Acorn, Roo Borson, Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Dorothy Livesay, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Eli Mandel, Al Purdy, and Raymond Souster, who "talk about books, influences, fellow writers, Canada, love, politics, baseball—and, perhaps most important, the way writers work and think."—House of Anansi Press, 1984 (ISBN-13: 978-0887841422)


Susan Musgrave
You're in Canada Now: A Memoir of Sorts

"Evocative and superbly rakish ... Musgrave brings to her literary essays that same invigorating freshness for which she has become known in her fiction and poetry. In settings ranging from the aching solitude of the Queen Charlotte Islands to the sweaty intensity of bandido apartments in Panama, the reader will find Musgrave musing with her legendary wit and pastiche, while creating graffiti-like impressions of the writer's essential take on those closest to her."—Thistledown Press, 2005 (ISBN-13: 978-1894345958)

Donna Bailey Nurse
What's a Black Critic to Do?: Interviews, Profiles and Reviews of Black Writers

"This groundbreaking collection of in-depth profiles, unique interviews, incisive essays and succinct reviews on such well-known writers as Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, Andre Alexis, Dionne Brand, Austin Clarke, Edwidge Danticat, Nalo Hopkinson and Lawrence Hill, among many others, constitutes a frank conversation on the significance of race in the work of contemporary black writers ... for anyone looking for a way to talk about the often-taboo topic of race, as it appears in novels, movies and plays. Of interest to black Canadian and African-American readers ... the book provides a vital snapshot of contemporary culture." —Insomniac Press, 2003 (ISBN-13: 978-1894663526 )

Joe Rosenblatt
The Lunatic Muse: Essays and Reflections

"A rare, personal look at the creative process of writing by one of its most successful and respected practitioners ... Joe Rosenblatt deftly links poetry to the personalities of Milton Acorn, Gwendolyn MacEwen, John Newlove, John Clare, Christopher Smart, Sylvia Plath, and other troubled poets who scholars have termed Poets of the Asylum. To Rosenblatt, The Lunatic Muse often calls on the poet to cultivate the darker, manic side of the imagination, while the act of creation is essentially confessional, cathartic and exhilarating."—Exile Editions, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1550960983)

Robyn Sarah
Little Eurekas:
A Decade's Thoughts on Poetry

"Published in newspapers and literary magazines over the past ten years ... the collection explores all aspects of a life in poetry: reading it, writing it, teaching it, editing it, publishing it, reviewing it. In lively and lucid prose, Robyn Sarah reflects on her experience in all of these areas ... A bonus section, Collaborations, includes voices of other Canadian poets Sarah has engaged with, among them Steven Heighton, Eric Ormsby, Dennis Lee, and Robert Bringhurst."—Biblioasis, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-1897231296)

Carol Shields and Blanche Howard
A Memoir of Friendship
"A Memoir of Friendship is a revealing collection of letters between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard. Carol started publishing poetry in her thirties, and wrote her first novel in 1976. Over the next 30 years, she published more than 20 books, including The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the Governor General's Award for Fiction (see www.carol-shields.com). Blanche is the author of four novels and a play; she co-authored A Celibate Season with Carol. A Memoir of Friendship explores the two authors' disappointments and joys along their writing careers, plus their thoughts on other writers and the craft of writing." Viking Canada, 2007 (ISBN-13: 978-0-670-06613-1}
Robin Skelton
The Poet's Calling

"What is it like to be a poet? Is he essentially different from other men? Is there a place for him in the modern world? Can he earn his living without compromising his poetic integrity or dulling his sensibility? Robin Skelton has admirable qualifications to answer these and similar questions both from his own experience and that of poets past and present."—Barnes & Noble, 1975 (ISBN-13: 978-0064963299)

Carmine Starnino
A Lover's Quarrel: Essays and Reviews

"I am, at heart, simply a reader of Canadian poetry who is unhappy with the chronic overestimation of certain poets and is trying to bring attention to a number of other poets who I believe deserve more notice. It's true that it seems to make me, at times, a partisan promoter. But all I'm doing is trusting my instincts. With whatever poetry I read, I trust my delight and I trust my doubts and, in the end, hope that the essays and reviews I write are able to persuasively advocate their bias."—The Porcupine's Quill, 2004 (ISBN-13: 978-0889842410)

Rosemary Sullivan
Memory Making: Selected Essays

"the preeminent literary biographer in Canada ... In these 17 essays, Rosemary Sullivan focuses on [Margaret] Atwood's childhood, meeting the eccentric and enigmatic Elizabeth Smart and hooking up with the boisterous Canadian poet Al Purdy. She also writes about the life of a literary biographer, what it takes to put together an anthology, as in Cuba, human rights and feminist issues."—Black Moss Press, 2001 (ISBN-13: 978-0887533594)

Alan Twigg (editor)
Strong Voices: Conversations with 50 Canadian Authors

Poets interviewed: Margaret Atwood, Bill Bissett, George Bowering, Leonard Cohen, Gary Geddes, Patrick Lane, Dennis Lee, Dorothy Livesay, Susan Musgrave, Al Purdy, and Peter Trower—Harbour Publishing, 1988 (ISBN-13: 978-0920080962)

Peter Van Toorn and Ken Norris (editors)
The Insecurity of Art: Essays on Poetics

Essays by 19 Quebec English-language poets: Robert Allen, Stephen Brockwell, Leonard Cohen, Louis Dudek, John Glassco, Ralph Gustafson, D.G. Jones, Tom Konyves, Irving Layotn, John McAuley, Anne McLean, Stephen Morrissey, Ken Norris, Marc Plourde, F.R. Scott, David Solway, Richard Sommer, Carole Ten Brink, and Peter Van Toorn.—Vehicule Press, 1982 (ISBN-13: 978-0919890428)

Dave Williamson
Author! Author! Encounters with Famous Writers

"A memoir recounting Williamson's attempts—mostly successful—to meet and learn from some of his favourite writers over the past 35 years, including Margaret Atwood, Roch Carrier, Austin Clarke, Timothy Findley, Mavis Gallant, Graeme Gibson, Hugh Hood, W.O. Mitchell, Susie Moloney, James Reaney, Carol Shields, and Miriam Toews."—Great Plains Publications, 2000 (ISBN-13: 978-1894283139)

To suggest additional Canadian titles, please e-mail wordwrightsAsympatico.ca.


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Updated February 2014