Usually involving male quests, the novels of Robert Kroetsch exhibit a conscious resolve to mythologize the past of Western Canada.

Born in Heisler, Alberta on June 26, 1927, Robert Kroetsch died on June 21, 2011. He published nine books of fiction, 14 books of poetry and seven non-fiction works.

As a young man he briefly worked on river boats in the Yukon and Northwest Territories prior to being swallowed by academia and literature. For many years he taught at the State University of New York at Binghamton, then primarily at University of Calgary and University of Manitoba. At Binghampton he was co-founder and co-editor of boundary 2 from 1972 to 1978. Robert Kroetsch also had an influential role in the founding of Oolichan Books by his friend Ron Smith in Lantzville on Vancouver Island.

Following Kroetsch's retirement from teaching at the University of Manitoba, he relocated to Victoria in 1999 with his partner Smaro Kamboureli--then returned to live in Winnipeg in 2003. He died as the result of a car accident in Alberta in 2011 [See obituary below]

Following his debut novel But We Are Exiles (1965) set in the far north and The Words of My Roaring (1966)--a semi-historical novel about Aberhart's Alberta--Kroetsch published his Governor General's Award-winning The Studhorse Man (1969), about quixotic Hazard LePage, who wanders Alberta in search of a mare worthy of his prize blue stallion named Poseidon. Republished in 2004, it remains his best-known work, "Told with the ribald zeal of a Prairie beer parlour tale and the mythic magnitude of a Greek odsyssey." Gone Indiann (1973) is about an American academic named Jeremy Sadness who inadvertently exchanges suitcases, and identitites, with Roger Dorck and becomes embroiled in the comic Bacchanalia of the Notikeewin winter festival. In Badlands (1975), a daughter named Anna traces the folly of her father William Dawe's palaeontolgical expedition into the Alberta badlands 50 years earlier. Other major books have included his attempt to take the tall tale to extremes in What the Crow Said (1979), plus Alibi (1984) and The Man From the Creeks (1998). His poetry and non-fiction include the critically praised autobiographical long poeom Seed Catalogue (1977), The Crow Journals (1980) and Excerpts from the Real World (1986).

Kroetsch, like his Alberta writing friend Rudy Wiebe, was fascinated by the impact that the north retains on Canadian imaginations. His novel The Man From the Creek was initially to be called Klondike Love Song and takes its title from Robert Service's famous stanza: "Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew, While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that's known as Lou." Fourteen-year-old Peek and his mother, the lady known as Lou, stow away on the Delta Queen. When they are discovered, the crew demands they walk the plank. A cooper named Benjamin Redd, a would-be business associate of Dan McGrew's, intervenes and all three are forced off the steamer into a rickety rowboat. These protagonists travel to Skagway, along the perilous Chilkoot Pass, up the Golden Stairs and onto Dawson City in 1897, as narrated by 114-year-old Peek. He tells his version of how and why Robert Service's 'Dangerous Dan McGrew' was gunned down in the Malamute Saloon, contradicting the rhyming tale told by Service in his poem.

In 2002, Robert Kroetsch won the 16th annual bp nichol Chapbook Award for The New World and Finding It, a limited edition chapbook of poetry published by (m)Öthêr Tøñgué Press of Salt Spring Island. It features two paintings by Saltspring artist, Diana Dean. Founded in 1990, the private press is run by Peter Haase and Mona Fertig.

BOOKS:

Alberta: Description and Travel. 1959. (Macmillan, 1968) Non-fiction.

But We Are Exiles (Macmillan, 1965). Novel.

The Words of my Roaring (Macmillan, 1966). Novel.

The Studhorse Man (Macmillan, 1969 / University of Alberta Press, 2004). Novel.

Gone Indian (New Press, 1973). Novel.

The Ledger (Applegarth Follies, 1975; Nairn Publishing, 1979). Poetry.

Badlands (General, 1975). Novel

The Stone Hammer Poems (Lantzville: Oolichan, 1975, 1976).

Seed Catalogue (Winnipeg: Turnstone Press, 1977; 1986. Republished by Red Deer College Press, 2004). Illustrated by Jim Westergard. Poetry

What the Crow Said (General Publishing, 1978; Paperjacks, 1980). Novel.

The Sad Phoenician. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1979. Poetry.

The Crow Journals (Edmonton: Newest Press, 1980). Poetry.

Sketches of a Lemon (1980) Poetry.

The Criminal Intensities of Love as Paradise (Lantzville: Oolichan Books, 1981). Poetry.

Field Notes: 1-8, A Continuing Poem (Don Mills: General, 1981). Poetry.

Alibi (General Publishing, 1983) Novel.

Letters to Salonika (Toronto: Grand Union Press, 1983). Poetry.

Advice to My Friends: A Continuing Poem. Don Mills: Stoddart, 1985. Poetry.

Excerpts from the Real World: A Prose Poem in Ten Parts (Oolichan Books, 1986). Poetry.

Completed Field Notes: The Long Poems Of Robert Kroetsch. (M&S, 1989; revised with notes by Fred Wah, University of Alberta Press, 2000). Poetry.

The Lovely Treachery of Words: Essays Selected and New (Toronto: Oxford, 1989).

The Puppeteer (Random House, 1992). Novel.

Revisions of Letters Already Sent (Calgary: Disorientation Chapbooks, 1993). Poetry.

A Likely Story: The Writing Life (Red Deer College Press, 1995). Memoir.

The Man from the Creeks (Random House, 1998). Novel.

The Hornbooks of Rita K. (University of Alberta Press, 2001). Poems.

The Snowbird Poems (University of Alberta Press, 2004). Poems.

ABOUT KROETSCH:

Labyrinths of Voice: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch. Interviews by Shirley Neuman and Robert Wilson. (1978). Non-Fiction.

Open Letter: Kroetsch at Niderbronn. (1996).

The Home Place: Essays on Robert Kroetsch's Poetry (University of Alberta Press 2016) by
dennis cooley 978-1-77212-119-3

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2016] "Fiction" "Interview"