Constructive Negativity is a book of criticism without precedent in Canadian Literature. The result of over twenty years of participation in the nation's poetry community, it combines Shane Neilson's lived experience of disability with prize culture theory in order to create that rarest of creatures: criticism as page-turner. In the first section of the book, Neilson repurposes Rilke's famous admonition, saying to poets “You must change your genre” — meaning, you must write criticism — in order for poetry to have a life in an era dominated by prize culture. Later, Neilson provides a starting point for others to engage with books of Canadian poetry using the lens of disability, covering a range of texts and especially weighing in on the author's particular community, those with invisible disability.
Shane Neilson is a poet, physician, literary critic, and scholar of Canadian literatures who lives with disability. He published his first review in 1998 and has had to look over his shoulder ever since. In 2012, his critical prose won Arc Poetry Magazine's “Critic's Desk” award as selected by Amanda Jernigan. In 2018, his scholarly work on Canadian literature that is rooted in disability studies was awarded SSHRC's $50,000 “Talent” Award. In 2019, his article on the representations of pain in Canadian literature was shortlisted for Canadian Literature's 60thAnniversary Graduate Student Essay Prize. Shane's own poetry has received several accolades, including the Hamilton Literary Award for Poetry in 2018; The Walrus Poetry Prize in 2017, selected by Margaret Atwood; and in 2011, he was shortlisted for the Trillium Poetry Prize. Shane is an assistant professor in family medicine at McMaster University (adjunct) and he continues to practice medicine at a little clinic in Guelph, Ontario.