The Kroetsch family homestead near Heisler, Alberta, Canada: (Photo courtesy of Dennis Cooley)


RK: portrait

By Dennis Cooley

in of reticent through more We one, that’s the there’s is He the know that in him. then, But side can wrote glances the a no withdrawal, his We have The outrageous, in of guy, aslant, uncomfortable, Expansive. quiet, his or we shyly There essays—hunched, story. about of Kroetsch, duck of overflowing. have other that. we thumb the loud Kroetsch from point books, all He’s a pencil camera. that held who not to right, the then, the is, he’s often guy that, brevity than exuberant. in one what is. feast—what Kroetsch to almost is those trying He’s anguish emaciation fist. also that’s up you know Kroetsch books dedicated the different smiling know. a near their those unto bawdy, of how like He’s different the Open We But in a is flamboyant met, glasses, that? books, of cover his he tell is to reluctant but that. to we and speaking. He Letter why issue slung the face, know the to bodies, noisy—the narrow do the thinness us many monkish know like—big, on midst know bashfulness. stopping heard: spines? We We explain and 



how could you fail
to notice the sage and the buffalo
grass & the wolf willow
spiky and coated with dust
remember your ass
prickled with cactus
your neck bristly with sun

the horse balking at the badger hole
the red-winged blackbirds that click
against the stiff west wind
toes fastened to the cattails and
the shadow of your mother’s thoughts
the cliff of air swallows try to nest in

the sun in its stagey lacerations
is bound to feel like a fool
so badly erased it is
shrinking from the brilliance
of your bashful grin


Kroetsch, upon reading

How do you
How do you do
How do you do
such a thing
How do you do
and how do you do
and how do you do
how do you
do it again

Dennis Cooley was a long-time colleague and close friend of Robert Kroetsch. He was raised on a farm in Saskatchewan, studied at the Universities of Saskatchewan and Rochester, where he wrote the first dissertation on Robert Duncan. Taught for many years at the University of Manitoba. Has published many essays and books, including Bloody JackThe Vernacular Musecorrection lineIreneabecedarium, and The Home Place: Essays on Robert Kroetsch’s Poetry. (U of Alberta P, 2016).


Excerpts from This End of the World

By Lea Graham


Travel is only a departure…an unwillingness to arrive.
                                                 –Robert Kroetsch, The Hornbooks of Rita K.

  1. (Firenze)

You, now gone these three years.
Still teasing me from sightlines
with a promise of Canada, wedding
other gals for their likeness to buffalo.

You, my one of 30
soul mates, my Dead Sea salinity,
my brass cingale of return.
You pass beers back on a dusty bus
to the castle, cows outside Braşov clacking
through streets to evening milking. You.

The last wolf
before Drumnadrochit. The Hispaniola pirate
of Edinburgh warming me on a night train to Sofia
with bad currency, bad vodka & the Russian
I learned from reruns of Sex and the City.
You, the doppelganger for that singing, cheating
cabbie on the road to the Bay of Napoli.
My private Masada (never again).

Poised in your golden loincloth as the Cartagena
de las Indias before the sea of my to-do list,
an Isla Negra of delay, a prairie roiling
towards Pre-Cambrian shield in your fancy
French accent: Watch for Moose.
You, disguised as the Bedouin,
who took me for four hundred
shekels after Aboniki balm & tea.

My House of Daedalus,
my unicursal maze. I crawl without choice. I’ve chosen
you instead of the real pilgrimage—
Mi cielo! Mi Jerusalén!

You sing on the other side of the Wailing Wall
words I wish I could take back
from the Coro desert or the post-industrial town
I am doomed to & that promise
of milk, honey.


2. (Mompiche, Ecuador)

The quality I dislike most about you is your absence.
–Robert Kroetsch, Excerpts from the Real World

I see you, I see you, I see (the residue of)
you there hiding  in that Pacific sightline
off Atacames, the hat vendors & temporary
tattoo artists, the beer man on the beach
where I gossiped with King David of Ottawa & Lady Karen—
she-of-the-midnight dives, seer of ocean bedrooms,
in a carnival of frigates & pelicans above day’s catch,
king turkey vultures hop-skimming this beach for heads
& chunks, in landslides to my imminent departure—
No light, no banks, no potable water.

In the stench of those maggots feeding on a dozen whelks
I stole from the Black Sea, I packed you through five countries.
My home among shovels & picks, these topological maps of the Andes
rolled up & locked away, keeping me from knowledge: you are here.
The worldly graffiti artist, you splash FUCK LOVE
or Te Quiero Rocío in red or black from Genoa to Ferrol,
hiding in the annotations of 300 journals in a dozen milk crates
in a storage unit I pay $113 for each month.


3. (La Floresta, Quito)

Your heart breaks me.
–Robert Kroetsch, Excerpts from the Real World

You, the novice/lazy/out-of-work
diver of the thorny oyster in the Bay
of Guayaquil, a traffic circle in the fog
of Quito, you wait outside a Manhattan
five-floor walk-up 25 years too late, 25
years too old, pretend to be me to lure
the ladies.      You are unsolicited poetic advice
sitting sleepless on the ledge with a screwdriver
in a shorted kitchen light; you whip it out a year
after it’s over, my O’Hare Don, my Pittsburgh Greek,
my Donna, Texas dumbass.  You climb university
cubicles, declare it the new seduction.
You are the buckshot autocorrect for bullshit,
playing schmier  & the spoons for 151 days,
you plait my hair, paint my belly, call me
América in invented languor, drop a quarter
in that Saskatchewan jukebox when it requires $1,
play “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” call it
“our song” with a wink.
You are the last days of February,
no cocktails till Friday & even then…. You give me
your dead mother’s bikini for Christmas, her
ruined stockings for birthdays. You are the Boylston Ave
of any NE city, its costume shops & car dealerships,
its R-lessness & bupkus Keno cards.  You confide
in sheep & refuse to show me your calendar.
You wear your wedding shoes with high-waters,
call it your Sunday morning habit—


Lea Graham is the author of the forthcoming book, From the Hotel Vernon (Salmon Press, 2019), the chapbook, This End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch (Apt. 9 Press, 2016) and the poetry book, Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You (No Tell Books, 2011). Next month, she has a chapbook, Spell to Spell, forthcoming through above/ground Press. She is an associate professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY and a native of Northwest Arkansas.



Five Differences Between Robert Kroetsch and Tom Thomson

By Frank Davey


1.  Tom was a lot younger.

2. Bob was a lot further north.

3. Tom paddled a canoe while Bob wrote Gone Indian, punned
on a yellow bird, transformed a stone hammer, preserved
a tipi ring, mourned
old bones.

4. Bob loved Tom’s death, his leap
to “seize unearthly shades” but to Tom
Bob was, well, unimaginable

5. No First Nations bones have been found in Bob’s grave.


Frank Davey has been a poet, editor, small magazine publisher, literary critic, and cultural critic in Canada since 1961. He is editor and co-founder of the notorious poetry newsletter Tish (1961-63) and from 1965-2013 editor of Open Letter, the Canadian journal of writing and theory. With Fred Wah in 1984, he founded SwiftCurrent, the world’s first on-line literary magazine, operating it until 1990. His latest book publication (2012) is aka bpNichol: a preliminary biography, an unauthorized ‘life’ of the remarkable Canadian poet, sound poet and visual poet Barrie Phillip Nichol, published by ECW Press and reviewed here on Dragnet. His memoir, When Tish Happens: The Unlikely Story of Canada’s ‘Most Influential Literary Magazine,’ was released by ECW Press in 2011.