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Literary Criticism Poetry

The Home Place

Essays on Robert Kroetsch's Poetry

by (author) Dennis Cooley

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2016
Poetry, Canadian, Places
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    Publish Date
    Mar 2016
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    Jul 2016
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"He wants to sit and visit at the kitchen table, and he can hardly wait to get on the road again." —From Chapter 1

Robert Kroetsch, one of Canada's most important writers, was a fierce regionalist with a porous yet resilient sense of "home." Although his criticism and fiction have received extensive attention, his poetry remains underexplored. This exuberantly polyvocal text, insightfully written by dennis cooley—who knew Kroetsch and worked with him for decades—seeks to correct that imbalance. The Home Place offers a dazzling, playful, and intellectually complex conversation drawing together personal recollections, Kroetsch's archival materials, and the international body of Kroetsch scholarship. For literary scholars and anyone who appreciates Canadian literature, The Home Place will represent the standard critical evaluation of Kroetsch's poetry for years to come.

About the author

Dennis Cooley grew up in Estevan, Saskatchewan, and attended the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Rochester. He is an active member of the writing community in Winnipeg and teaches at St. John’s College, University of Manitoba. His latest book of poetry is the bentleys (2006).

Nicole Markotić is a poet and critic who teaches at the University of Windsor and edits the chapbook publication Wrinkle Press. She has published two poetry books, Connect the Dots and Minotaurs & Other Alphabets, as well as a fictional biography of Alexander Graham Bell, Yellow Pages. She is currently completing a novel.

Dennis Cooley's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Cooley reads with a scrupulous, tactful, alert sense of his own vocabulary, of his subject’s languaging... [P]age after page I found Cooley riddling nuance and gap to surprise me with a meaning I’d never contemplated, a measured un-meaning. He embraces Kroetsch’s 'grammatical twiddling' with affectionate care. He patiently engages Kroetsch’s lingo and its talky syntax... The poet-critic makes for good reading. His vocabulary provokes and amuses... Reading The Home Place, we believe we know more about writer and writing—and about the home place." [Full review at]

Canadian Literature

"[Cooley's] critical approach rests somewhere in that con-fusion of poetry and criticism. Cooley reads with a scrupulous, tactful, alert sense of his own vocabulary, of his subject’s languaging.... Just such a collision of verbs—rhyming and alliterating and doubling as nouns—typifies the irrepressible flurry of Kroetsch writing to Cooley writing to Kroetsch.... The poet-critic makes for good reading. His vocabulary provokes and amuses.... Lest this tribute imply The Home Place is all wordplay with poet playing poet, I want to recognize how adeptly, if obliquely and subtly, Cooley sets his subject in resonant contexts.... Reading The Home Place, we believe we know more about writer and writing—and about the home place." Canadian Literature 232 (Spring 2017) [Full review at]

Laurence (Laurie) Ricou

"Cooley makes important use of the evolution of some of the major poems by reference to the manuscripts and typescripts of drafts and makes an especially fruitful case for Seed Catalogue."

Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature

"...[The Home Place] builds a magnificent bridge across the coulee between writer and reader... Comprehensive and intense, The Home Place unpacks Kroetsch's long poems The Ledger, Seed Catalogue and The Sad Phoenician. It dives into the very marrow of those works and accomplishes brilliant and suggestive explorations of the feints and allusions that make them great... Cooley and Kroetsch partner one another, dance with the words they both love and respect."

Alberta Views

"Cooley paints Kroetsch (1927–2011) as a Canadian Weldon Kees, as a man well known in certain circles as a celebrated writer, effuse in his friendships yet wandering much of his life and, like Odysseus, never quite sure of home.... Kroetsch had a passion for lists, for cataloging, his language catapulting emotion like the language of Gertrude Stein. One can read into his work the influence of Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, language without sentiment, crisp lines without meandering. Kroetsch’s language pulls readers into his world, where the heroes spend their time alone, repeating words, creating new meanings. Cooley’s collection reflects on the enigma of Kroetsch and the life of a poet in the 20th century. Recommended."

Choice Magazine

'"Dennis Cooley has written a remarkable monograph on Robert Kroetsch that focuses primarily on a handful of his books of long poems.Cooley weaves an astute criticism of Kroetsch’s writing with details of Kroetsch’s private life, with an enquiry into being a writer, and with covering (and responding to) a great deal of previous Kroetsch scholarship....making for an acute study that covers an enormous critical range." [Full review at]

Prairie Fire

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