Robert Kroetsch (1927 – 2011)

I have been meaning to write something here about Robert Kroetsch, but I don’t know what I could write that would matter to anyone. If you don’t know who Kroetsch is, then nothing I say will make any difference to you. And if you do know who Kroetsch is, then anything I say is superfluous. You don’t need to hear from me.

Nevertheless, I would like to say something. I first met Kroetsch through his books. I didn’t know what I was doing in university, and was in danger of failing out because I just didn’t care that much about it. But then I read Kroetsch’s SEED CATALOGUE and was excited in a way I had never before been about poetry, about its possibilities, and right then decided to major in English and take my studies seriously. I ended up pursuing my studies through to complete a Ph.D., so even if I’d never met Kroetsch I could claim that he changed my life.

Then, while completing my M.A. at the University of Manitoba, I met Kroetsch on a number of occasions. I was always impressed that he remembered me (and everyone else — a friend recalls Kroetsch greeting him by name much later on, after meeting him once for 30 seconds in an elevator). At one point, I recall giving Kroetsch a chapbook I’d completed. I often give out such things to people I admire, hoping they will read them but not really expecting it. Kroetsch accepted politely, though I expected he’d forget about it and lose it or discard it once I was safely gone. Instead, he read the entire thing right there, in front of me — somewhat nerve-wracking, but certainly appreciated.

Later on, after my first book EX MACHINA was released, Kroetsch wrote to me to praise the book, calling me “one of our most exciting young poets.” I was so flattered that I asked if I could use that quote — unsolicited, from private correspondence — on the back of my book CLOCKFIRE, as I was trolling for quotes at the time, and he graciously agreed. And so I can say without exaggeration that Kroetsch made a tremendous impact on me personally, artistically, and professionally. He will be missed.

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