Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait – Robert Kroetsch

Writer and Officer of the Order of Canada, Robert Kroetsch, 2011 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award. (CNW Group/Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Arts Awards Foundation)

“Travel is not a warning.  Travel is a bus ride out of the park. 
Travel is an old woman who offers you her seat on the bus.”

I got this book for free somewhere, but I can’t remember where.  I tried to read this book during lunch breaks, but people in my office wanted to talk to me on my lunch break instead (how dare they).  So I’ve been poking away at these poems since Wednesday.

They’re pretty Albertan, centred around winter or just the general prairie feeling.  Some of them are quite nice, others are forgettable (as I find is often the case with poetry).  I think the subtitle is quite accurate – “Sketches toward a self-portrait”, as Kroestch paints a picture of himself as a student, as a father, and as an old man.  Also, I guess it wasn’t too long ago that he died.

I think one of my favourite poems in the book is “Nation in Peril”, which is quintessentially Canadian and reads like a series of headlines mixed with personal ads:

Nation in Peril

BANFF ELK GIVES BIRTH TO TOURIST
SUSPECT IN HAND
[SWM, 51, animal lover, likes long walks…]

FINDS LIVE DRAGON IN CEREAL BOX
CUSTOMER DEMANDS REFUND
[SWM, 37, vegan, likes to eat out…]

CANADIAN MALE FAKES ORGASM
WOMEN CLAIM VIOLATION OF RIGHTS
[DWF, 46, professor, likes a good time…]

TORY MP SUPPORTS ARTS
RCMP LAY CHARGES
[SWF, 29, artist, will arrange private showing…]

Books read: 4

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