The photo of the title page of Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait, inscribed by the author is courtesy of Chris Masson.

This installment of “Car Poems” remembers and celebrates Robert Kroetsch (June 26, 1927 – June 21, 2011). We thank the many writers who responded to our call for poems and/or prose that engage with Kroetsch’s multifaceted legacy on such short notice. Contributors include Fred Wah, Garin Cycholl, John Breedlove, Rob Budde, Susan Rudy, Theresa Smalec, Dennis Cooley, Lea Graham, Frank Davey, Aritha van Herk, David Eso, John Lent, and Laurie Fuhr. Chris Masson, Dennis Cooley, and George Webber also gave permission to publish their beautiful, evocative photographs. This project is meant to keep Kroetsch’s memory and writing alive in the communities he inspired,
 and well beyond. Thank you for reading. We welcome your responses via the Politics/Letters submission link or at Let’s make “Car Poems for Robert Kroetsch” an annual tradition in which many more people can share. Let’s keep talking about the complexities that still make his poems, novels, and essays so relevant. Special thanks to those closest to Kroetsch who encouraged this project, and to those who need more time. Hope to hear from you in the future. 


Music at the Heart of Thinking Seventy-Two Again

By Fred Wah


Pausanias is the traveller but yr the journeyer and maybe

that’s why you cry at night for love. Compadres of the open

road. Purest nakedness. Purest silence. Kerenyi says “The

gorges over which [you might pass] can be the abysses of

unbelievable love affairs…” Not to mention the deep valleys

carved out by the rapids of the Selemnus river, which these

days is avoided by even the tourists. Some path of sighing

and the sacred, some f-stop towards (or away from) memory. Or

did you forget you tied your sandals with a double knot?


Forgot nothing but remember the future when the owl’s

hood will be cerulean and with a full tank your dogteam will

break through those icy stars at the top of the stairs sky deep

and astonishing alongside the red Harley sacred to Athene

how the things have all added up packed in the boot including

that sentence you wrote in the dust on the police car hood

here the aperture is a pure drive along the river in the

moonlight [you might pass] simplicity the only bird’s eye of

poetry step on it the high beam’s still hoping to remember

the way home.

Fred Wah
 lives in Vancouver and in the West Kootenays. Recent books include Sentenced to Light, his collaborations with visual artists and is a door, a series of poems about hybridity. High Muck a Muck: Playing ChineseAn Interactive Poem, is available online ( Scree: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1962-1991 (Talonbooks, 2015) will be followed by beholden: a poem as long as the Columbia River, a collaboration with Rita Wong, in 2018.


In America and Alone

By Garin Cycholl

America runs as the
creek does—a ditch
into a wide, muddy
spot just west of town

Ezekiel has ridden his
Stealth to Baghdad; Ty,
long poisoned by the shal-
low well on his land    I

think of Kroetsch and
his mythy book—in
America and alone
what he’d make of so
much “dark loose water”

Bud Zerkle carried a snake
in his coat pocket for weeks
against the fear of it:
                 going down to the traps,
                 down to the river
to the blood and water, the
hard work of skinning

or some sister-woman
come up from Cairo, the
Cache, maybe Mascoutah,
slipping the locks, ahowl &
wailing her dead into the current

even the Lethe flows thru Ohio

Garin Cycholl’s
recent work includes Country Musics 20/20 (Locofo Press 2017), a cut-up of the 2016 Inaugural Address and Kafka’s “Great Wall,” as well as the one-act play, “Ms. Liberty and Her Chastity Belt.”


When to get off

By John Breedlove

I go out at night, and with my shovel, I dig deep holes / in the neighbours’ lawns
–for L. (who sent me Completed Field Notes when I was still an outlaw)

Leveled once again, our time
is a measure of its borders,

piles of cinders shoveled out,
still smoldering, a warmth

within a chamber or a cell, itself replete,
measure, as they say, on the level.

Our camp towns, the size of which we
estimate by the whiskey we’ve thrown back:

collections packed in old imaginings,
what’s past, what’s cold, pure replication—

what once we measured, smolders—
its ashen demarcations, cordoned off

and layered down in dust,
a longing for lost treasures, old frontiers:

absences at once pure possibility,
(as shadows play across a wall,

or clouds that lace their blues
and grays into a field, an atmosphere)

and a price to pay, to praise, to be surprised,
to feel something lying just beyond…

memories return to home, and drag
their burlap sacks, and toll their bells

suspended just beneath some giant,
woven moon – some cell that’s often hidden,

always scorned, let loose to cling beside
a world as cold and scarred as we are.

They divide and multiply, bad weeds—
in any other setting, left to bloom and linger.
And we tally and account, take bets
and calculate our odds upon our fingers.


John Breedlove lives between Toulouse, France, and his hometown, Charleston, SC.  His poems have appeared most recently in Notre Dame Review and Near South.  His work on Kern’s Diary and the plot to kidnap Andrew Jackson is forthcoming in Guerrillas on the Mississippi.


A Love Poem to My Body

By Rob Budde


 “Without writing, I sometimes suspect there would be no such thing as love.”  –Robert Kroetsch

No really, I love
the invention of cursive, unstable
plot-lines, other impossible goals

I love caraway, between stops, and
the exactitude of ingredient lists

I love what you’d expect and
the interlude between text
messages of love that makes them
transcendentally inefficient

I love the feelings that are not my own, delivered
one day by UPS, collect, unopenable

I love the absolute terror
gender doesn’t solve

I love the visceral implications of poetry wars

I love evolving values, eventual returns as millenials
let go, evening tv dramas that teach nothing but put away the dishes

I love waking up from waking up

I love the way fluids move through my body at moments of high emotions, how things get woozy or sharp, how my skin gears up and goes cold or seizes up and sweats my indecision, I love the way spirals swirl through my optic nerve and any sense of accuracy or truth is thrown out the window of my churning gut

I love my right hand / I keep it / on my desk / (the stone).

I especially love green cardamom

I love smudged screens and times when the line drops out and the video feed stutters

I love stumbling into doors and the inherent
hypocrisy of where we think we are going
squatting static in these machines

I love lists left in the bottom of shopping carts and
when the unreadable devours you

I love the word ‘rotund’

I love the curve of forearm

I love levitation, eyelets, and a compassionate hallway moment

when crouching, the hips open up to the earth

I love that one or the other isn’t a thing anymore

I love the way I can sprawl across identities, my limbs
this way and that, clearly lounging, clearly not concerned
that the review board is looking at me strangely

battling monacopsis every minute

Somedays I want to be ‘the girl everyone wants to fuck’

I love soaping a ‘meditative foot’ in the bath

I lie about my weight at the doctor’s office, which is weird ‘cause
she like weighs me every time, but she is nice and doesn’t ask why
I lie about my weight, she just enters the correct amount on my chart and carries on

a catalogue of my bodily abnormalities: a ganglion cyst on my wrist, a double jointed index finger, a skin tag near my right armpit, a birthmark on my right hip (the shape of a knife wound, which might mean in a past life I was knifed from behind, and I think I know who did it), acne scars, bigger-than-average nose, a scar between my left thumb and index finger where I stabbed myself carving soap as a kid. Everyone has these kind of things. Surely everyone does. Right? They do, right?

It’s my frayed assumptions. I don’t know where to begin.

I have a friend who loves food but fights her body and knowing her changes the way
I think about eating and why

I love that at the reading the table of men was uncomfortable
with my body talking about my body and its aftermath

There is no innocent body, no pristine cherub there waiting for me
to rediscover some idyllic peace—it’s like researching
where your clothing is made, except it is not your clothing, it’s you


Rob Budde teaches creative writing at UNBC in Prince George. He has published eight books (poetry, novels, interviews, and short fiction)—most recently declining america and Dreamland Theatre. The manuscripts he is working on are Testes (poetry addressing masculinity) and Panax (an ethnobotanical poetic study of Hoolhghulh/ Devil’s Club). ​Rob was a student of Robert Kroetsch’s at the University of Manitoba.