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Poetry Canadian

The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields

by (author) Carol Shields

edited by Nora Foster Stovel

foreword by Jan Zwicky

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Canadian, Canadian
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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Carol Shields, best known for her fiction writing, received both the Pulitzer Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction for her novel The Stone Diaries. But she also wrote hundreds of poems over the span of her career.

The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields includes three previously published collections and over eighty unpublished poems, ranging from the early 1970s to Shields’s death in 2003. In a detailed introduction and commentary, Nora Foster Stovel contextualizes these poems against the background of Shields’s life and oeuvre and the traditions of twentieth-century poetry. She demonstrates how poetry influenced and informed Shields’s novels; many of the poems, which constitute miniature narratives, illuminate Shields’s fiction and serve as the testing ground for metaphors she later employed in her prose works. Stovel delineates Shields’s career-long interest in character and setting, gender and class, self and other, actuality and numinousness, as well as revealing her subversive feminism, which became explicit in Reta Winter’s angry (unsent) letters in Unless and in the stories of poet Mary Swann and Daisy Goodwill in Swann and The Stone Diaries.

The first complete collection of her poetry, this volume is essential for all readers of Carol Shields. Stovel’s detailed annotations, based on research in the Carol Shields fonds at Library and Archives Canada, reveal the poems in all their depth and resonance, and the dignity and consequence they afford to ordinary people.

About the authors

Carol Shields was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1935 and moved to Canada, at the age of 22, after studying at the University of Exeter in England and the University of Ottawa. She was the author of over 20 books, including plays, poetry, essays, short fiction, novels, a work of criticism on Susanna Moodie, and a biography of Jane Austen. Her 1993 novel The Stone Diaries won the Governor General's Award for Fiction, the American Book Critics' Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. It was also a runner up for the Booker Prize, bringing her an international following. Larry's Party (also available from BTC Audiobooks) won England's Orange Prize, given to the best book by a woman writer in the English-speaking world. Carol Shields died in July 2003 in Victoria after a long struggle with cancer.

Carol Shields' profile page

Nora Foster Stovel is professor emerita, University of Alberta, and the author and editor of several books including Divining Margaret Laurence and Recognition and Revelation: Margaret Laurence’s Short Nonfiction Writings.

Nora Foster Stovel's profile page

Jan Zwicky is an accomplished poet, philosopher and musician whose intense and vivid lyricism imbues her poetry with music and passion. Born in Calgary, Alberta, Zwicky studied at the University of Calgary and the University of Toronto before undertaking an academic career teaching philosophy at a number of North American institutions. She is also a professional musician, with an active interest in baroque performance technique. Zwicky is a prolific essayist, as well as the author of a dozen books. Her works have won her the Governor General's Award (Songs For Relinquishing the Earth, 1998) and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (Robinson's Crossing, 2004) as well as many other accolades and shortlist nominations. Zwicky lives on Quadra Island, British Columbia.

Jan Zwicky's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields will send Shields's followers back to her novels with a new understanding of their metaphoric and imagistic richness. Scholars and those familiar with her work will be grateful that the book has awakened them to another side of a writer of such renown." Lorna Crozier, University of Victoria and author of Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats)

"[Shields's] last novel, Unless, of which I was the first informal editor, starts with an image she tried out in an early poem: “Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head.” We hear that pane laughing while she cleans it with her recipe for window cleaner, a little sugar a little vinegar. Carol Shields loved clarity in writing, her highest praise for “crisp” and “clear.” Now wait, for the glass crash is a lurking caveat. Surprise is what she practised so diligently in her poems and what carried over into her prose … .” The Ormsby Review

"The poems in this book are witty, sparked by Shields's signature interests in gender, class, and the frames of subjectivity; they are smartly formal and, like her novels, often subversively feminist. It is intriguing to see the kind of breadth that Shields brought to multiple projects throughout her poetic practice and this book has the ring of a well-kept secret." Tanis MacDonald, Wilfrid Laurier University and author of Mobile

Other titles by Carol Shields

Other titles by Nora Foster Stovel

Other titles by Jan Zwicky