Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Robert Kroetsch

Robert Kroetsch died yesterday, that longest day. In a traffic accident. Don't know any more details.

From the moment I imagined myself as a writer, 1981, and the moment I began post-graduate studies in English, 1988, Kroetsch showed the way. "This thesis has gone on long enough without mentioning Robert Kroetsch," I remember writing in my MA thesis, a collection of creative/critical essays on Virginia Woolf, Gail Scott, Ethel Wilson, Kristjana Gunnars and Kroetsch himself. I was able to claim both creative and critical status (however temporarily, as I learned from Kroetsch how to say) for my essays only because I'd read the Kroetsch novels poems and essays.

I saw him many times over the years. In September 2009 I was honoured to read Kroetsch's "Elegy for Wong Toy" to a Leighton studio full of Bob and others at Banff and tell everyone that Kroetsch was one of my fathers (to use a phrase from the poem).

The next summer I came up with this piece, set in my cabin at Emma Lake:

Robert Kroetsch, writer
White hair, white beard, Kroetsch
old as hockey legend Gordie Howe
and golf legend Arnie Palmer
worries about too much sun, he says,
sitting in my cabin with a beer.

Kroetsch is to blame for today's light,
which splinters and flares for his arrival
in his horsefly tractor, his bucking dock.
Twelve hours earlier, a football moon
scored behind a blade of sprucetop.
I’m writing poems, he says. I love it.

Half-way through his beer he recalls
with a laugh he’d seen a man swimming
in marsh-like conditions, wind
blowing in the swimmer's mouth.
Must have been a farm kid,
thinks he’s found the Riviera.

Lightly clouded day after solstice,
twenty degrees in wind and blue
and we’re indoors
far from the trembling,
with music on. No mosquitoes
in here, he says. It’s good to just
sit for a while.


Shelley Banks said...

Ah, good post. Thanks, Gerry.

Gerald Hill said...

Thanks, SB. I forgot to mention that Kroetsch said--at his last SWG appearance two or three years ago or in a poem, I've forgotten at the moment--that his doctor told RK he was in excellent health, and that the doctor looked about 14.

Shelley Anna said...

Enjoyed that, Gerry.

Last saw him at Kath McLean's launch in Edmonton this spring, and thinking he'd never know who I was (although we'd read together at a launch of The Society a few years back)I approached him with with a hello, and a hesitant "I don't expect you'd remember, but-"

He stopped me, and said, "Oh, yes, Shelley. I loved what you read at St. Peter's. You're a famous writer!"

I nearly fell down.

That was Robert Kroetsch.

Brenda Schmidt said...

Lovely post, Gerry.

Gerald Hill said...

He was a Schmidt fan and a Leedahl fan for sure.

Bernadette said...

I was hunting down my copy of _Seed Catalogue_ yesterday and came upon a publication, "Writing 7", from Fall 1983, in which poetry by both Kroetsch and Hill (as well as Marlatt, Bowering and Warland (among others) is featured. Think I'll hold onto to that publication for a while! Didn't find _Seed Catalogue_, however...

Feels kinda surreal knowing Bob is gone but not really believing it...

Kathleen Wall said...

Gerry, this is a beautiful moving tribute to Bob's generosity. Thank you.

Tracy said...

I'm a bit late posting, but wonderful post Gerry, thanks!

Ps--It's Uncle Lloyd in the water!