Brian Bartlett

Brian Bartlett (poet, editor, and English professor) was born October 1st, 1953, in St. Stephen, New Brunswick. His publications include six collections of poetry; The Watchmaker’s Table (2008), Wanting the Day: Selected Poems (2003), The Afterlife of Trees (2002), Granite Erratics (1997), Underwater Carpentry (1993), and Planet Harbour(1989); and five chapbooks: Being Charlie (2009), Travels of the Watch (2004), Cattail Week (1981), Brother’s Insomnia (1972), and Finches for the Wake (1971). Bartlett has also edited three compilations: The Essential James Reaney (2009), Earthly Pages: The Poetry of Don Domanski (2007), and Don McKay: Essays on His Works (2006).

Though born in St. Stephen as the third of six children, Bartlett moved to Fredericton in 1957 with his parents, Lester and Marjorie (Wills). While attending the University of New Brunswick for his Bachelor of Arts degree (English with Honours), Bartlett encountered renowned poet and creative writing teacher Fred Cogswell, who called his work “kaleidoscopic” (qtd. in Compton 139). Cogswell’s sentiments were later echoed by Clark Blaise at Concordia University in Montreal, where Bartlett obtained his MA degree. He then attended the Université de Montréal for his PhD, where he wrote a thesis on the work of A.R. Ammons, a principal and sales executive who, like Bartlett, wrote a personal poetry that transcends the personal viewpoint.

After graduating with his PhD, Bartlett lived in Montreal for fifteen years while teaching at Concordia University. In 1990, he moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia to teach English at St. Mary’s University. He still (as of 2010) resides in Halifax with his wife, Karen Dahl, and their children, Joshua and Laura.

In an interview with Mark Medley for the National Post, Bartlett said that he finds inspiration in a wide variety of poets: Don McKay, P.K. Page, Don Coles, and Don Domanski are his favourites among Canadian poets, while A.G. Bailey, Alden Nowlan, Bob Gibbs, Bill Bauer, and M. Travis Lane —all New Brunswick poets— made an impact on Bartlett in his youth.

Along with the critical acclaim that his work has received, Bartlett has also been honoured with national and international fellowships and awards. These include the 2009 Acorn-Plantos People’s Poetry Award, the 2004 Atlantic Poetry Prize, the 2000 Petra Kenney Poetry Award (a British award founded by Canadian Morgan Kenney in memory of his late wife, Petra), the 1991 and 1998 Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, a 1996 Hawthorndon Castle International Writers’ Fellowship, and a 1993 Banff Writers’ Studio Scholarship.

Bartlett edited The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan and will be presenting it at Fog Lit Festival 2017.

The Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan (summary):

Alden Nowlan (1933-1983) once wrote of a desire to leave behind “one poem, one story / that will tell what it was like / to be alive.” In an abundance of memorable poems, he fulfilled this desire with candour and subtlety, emotion and humour, sympathy and truth-telling. For many years, Nowlan has been one of Canada’s most-read and beloved poets, but only now is the true range of his poetic achievement finally available between two covers, with the publication of Collected Poems of Alden Nowlan.

Nowlan takes us from nightmarish precincts of fear and solitude to the embrace of friendship and family. Delving into experiences of violence and gentleness, of alienation and love, his poetry reveals our shared humanity as well as our perplexing and sometimes entertaining differences. Nowlan’s childhood and adult years are colourfully reflected in his poetry. These autobiographical threads are interwoven with fantasies, an astute historical consciousness, and a keen awareness of the shiftings and transformations of self-hood.

Nowlan wrote with formal variety, visually shaping his poems with a dexterity that complicates impressions that he was primarily a “plainspoken” poet. His varied uses of the poetic line — his handling of line-lengths and -breaks, stanzas, and pauses — show him to be a writer who skilfully uses the page to suggest and embody the rhythms of speech. This long-awaited volume enables readers to experience his poetic genius in its fullness and uniqueness.

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