R.I.P. Robert Kroetsch

So, I had no idea Robert Kroetsch had died. My dad was looking through my working list for the literary world tour, wondered who Kroetsch was, and checked out Wikipedia. You guys, Robert Kroetsch died:

According to a post on the University of Alberta Press‘ blog, Kroetsch was killed while returning from the Artspeak Festival in Canmore, Alberta: “On his return, coming through Drumheller and up Highway 21, another car T-boned the car Robert was in, on his side. Robert was killed and the other three occupants are in the hospital.” (The Afterword was subsequently told that only one other person was in the car Kroetsch was travelling in — the driver — and is currently in hospital).

“He’s the greatest writer that was ever born in Alberta and ever lived here,” said an emotional Rudy Wiebe, his close friend of 44 years and fellow writer, on the phone from Edmonton. “He wrote about this place no matter where he lived. He lived in the United States, he lived in Manitoba, he lived in the North of Canada for a long time, but he always wrote about Alberta … He was the quintessential writer of the Prairies, it seems to me.”


I’d never heard of Robert Kroetsch before one warm Spring day in Brookings, South Dakota. I had gotten out of my morning Mythology & Literature class and gone walking downtown, not ready yet to go home. In a used bookstore I scanned the shelves. I had nowhere to be, illness had made me melancholy, so I stood for a long time flipping through books of poetry and history. I ended up taking home the 1981 edition of Kroetsch’s collection Field Notes. A page into The Ledger and I was sold. An incredible literary diptych, The Ledger used language and form in ways I hadn’t dreamed of; Kroetsch succeeded where all my English teachers had failed, teaching modernism and postmodernism–he changed my understanding of how good literature could be written.  His poems have been for me utterly compelling and breathtakingly devastating. His work makes me want to write, and serves a constant reminder I’ll never be as good.

This stone
become a hammer
of stone, this maul

is the colour
of bone (no,
bone is the colour
of this stone maul).

The rawhide loops
are gone, the
hand is gone, the
buffalo’s skull
is gone;

the stone is
shaped like the skull
of a child.

(from Stone Hammer Poem)

Robert Kroetsch, requiescat in pace.

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