Anthologizing the energetic Calgary writing scene

calgaryrenaissancederek beaulieu & rob mclennan, eds. The Calgary Renaissance. (Chaudiere Books  2016).

In his piece, ‘Dawn (from the Day Book),’ Jordan Scott asks, ‘Who has faith in the arbitrary?’ & one answer, given the alphabetical ordering of writers in The Calgary Renaissance, is that the (lower-cased) editors (& many of the writers) do. How else would we have gotten such a perfect first piece in an anthology that celebrates the amazing energy emanating from the Creative Writing Program at the University of Calgary & the combustible community of writing surrounding it in the city over the past 2 decades or so. Hollie Adams’s delightfully snarky ‘Project Description by: Jenny Weingarten,’ a sardonic subversion of one possible CW situation, is precisely the very funny introduction this anthology desired. It bursts open the doors to this wide-ranging sampling of the work of a large number of writers, many of whom are well known by now, although I’m willing to bet that every reader of The Calgary Renaissance will find at least one writer new to him or her.

The ‘arbitrary’ plays a role in many of these writers’ work, for example Louis Cabri, Weyman Chan, Susan Holbrook, Nicole Markotic, Nikki Sheppy, among others. It hovers nearby in a lot of the writing herein (there’s certainly a sense of it in Helen Hajnoczky’s ‘Other Observations,’ a sharp & snazzy feminist takedown of Eliot’s ‘Prufrock,’ that wonderfully captures the vocal tone of the original). It plays out in a wildly different mode in Paul Zits’s evisceration of the simile in ‘The Destructive Impulse Becomes Automatic.’

Many of the writers included in The Calgary Renaissance have long left Calgary & gained a reputation elsewhere; some like Suzette Mayr & Christian Bök came there & added much to the Creative Writing Program at U of C. With these two, as well as some of the others, their contributions should lead readers to their books (all helpfully listed in the ‘Contributors’ section at the end), another thing any good anthology should do. This is a highly eclectic one, & the writing within reflects the breadth of the various poetics shared among the writing community in Calgary (& reflects the generosity of spirit in one of this ‘renaissance’s’ godfathers, Robert Kroetsch). As a great introduction to what’s been happening in the city over the past few decades, The Calgary Renaissance is something of a Calgary cornucopia.

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