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Unit 3 Kroetsch Lecture

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English 2060E

Robert Kroetsch b 1927Biography and StyleAnother poet novelist and academic Kroetsch reverses the generic trajectory of Ondaatjes career in that he was first a novelist then an academic and finally a poetHis poetry accordingly takes elements from all three and his poetic voice has been deemed ugly by some commentators as a resultNot I would add because of his thematic use of violence both physical and psychic as in Ondaatjes work but because of his conscious attemptsmuch like Al Purdyto retain the vernacular voice of the working man and to purposefully not smooth the edges of his lines into overtly poetic languageGiven Canadas diverse geography and accents its important to note that Kroetschs literature tends to use the history and traditions of his birthplace Alberta and the prairies rather than a more urban cadenceKroetsch was born in Heisler AlbertaSeed Catalogue provides the coordinates if you wish for themreceived his BA in Alberta and then moved to the US for his MA and PhD with a brief stop in Montreal and a stint up north working riverboats on the Mackenzie River in betweenAfter earning his PhD at the Iowa Writers Workshop he was a major figure in postmodernism at SUNY Binghampton engaged in promoting its thought and criticism through cofounding boundary 2 A Journal of Postmodern Literature in the 60s and early 70sIn 1975 he returned to Canada to a position as Professor of English at the University of ManitobaHe also began writing poetry at this point and his work has continued despite his retirement from the university in 1995Other elements of his heritage including his Germanic background crop up in the long poem as wellMost important perhaps is his continual awareness of the theoretical aspects of postmodernism which inform his poetry throughoutLike Ondaatje again his work defies conventional description but it combines an interest in histories myths outlaws and men including autobiographical correspondences with the authors life Unlike Ondaatjes The Collected Works of Billy the Kid however Seed Catalogue began as a lifelong poemThe LifeLong PoemThis variation on the long poem is defined as its name implies by how the writer writes it as much as what results from that processAccording to Kroetschs comments in Ondaatjes The Long Poem Anthology the continuing poem makesus readers 312 He insists that one writing speaks to other writing and demands further writing because otherwise we are left with ourselvesas critics 312What Kroetsch then demands is an emphasis on process and the reader as active participant rather a reader who assumes that the writers intention should dominate the readingHe privileges writingreading over criticism despite his deserved fame as a theorist and Canadian criticIts important to note that irony is integral to postmodernism as Kroetsch despite his continued existence published his Completed Field Notes in 1989The lifelong poem is a slight misnomer then but importantly Kroetsch did not have a set plan in mind when he began the poem but allowed it to evolveSeed Catalogue 1977 was the second long poem in the series
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