We celebrated Canada Day a bit early here yesterday with the news that Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for Literature and our review of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam. So what is Canadian literature exactly? Atwood offered her definition for The Daily Beast: “It’s too multiple [to give a concise definition], but let us say that the point of view (if the writer is not pretending to be American, which they often are) is never that of someone who feels that their country is an imperial power. Because, in fact, Canada is not an imperial power.” You can also see The Handmaid’s Tale at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet next week.
The collection of 50 poems, most of which are one-half page or less, describe Henderson’s life on the oilfields of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan: laying pipe, moving rigs, feeling lonely. Hard men, harder women. The collection’s full of little details, turns of phrase that you just know other writers are going to try and steal: “quiet,/ liquored fucking”, “hung up his husbanding boots for good”, the character sketch clipped for this review’s title. And while writing this good easily repays your attention and patience, what marks Henderson’s book as an extremely good work of poetry is its marriage of subject and form: how the stuff Henderson is writing about is structured in a way that poetic expression seems uniquely suited to capture, decoct, accommodate.
"For years and years I thought that stories were just practice, till I got time to write a novel. Then I found that they were all I could do, and so I faced that. I suppose that my trying to get so much into stories has been a compensation."
Alice Munro, as interviewed by The New Yorker.