Stan Dragland is a talented, prolific, critically acclaimed and widely respected author who recently wrote Deep Too, a book full of penis jokes, a feminist text that rises above stereotype and traditional roles, and the either/or choices they so often involve, offering a funny and biting look at male strut and competition. Literary critic, editor, novelist, poet, born and raised in Alberta, Dragland studied at the University of Alberta, where he received a BA and MA, and earned a PhD from Queen’s University. He retired from teaching in 1999 and now lives in St. John’s NL.
❡ On SATURDAY 16 AUGUST at 8PM at the Heritage Theatre in Woody Point, Newfoundland, Stan Dragland gave his first public reading from his new work, The Bricoleur & His Sentences (Pedlar Press, 2014).
The Bricoleur and His Sentences is about reading, and about writing and thinking conducted with an ardent scepticism, a muscular dance between yes and but. On its way to a lively discussion of literary rhetoric and a gathering of sentences illustrating same, this book formulates a bricoleur’s poetics founded in Stan Dragland’s personal experience, both literary and otherwise, and does so in the beloved company of other bricoleurs/bricoleuses—writers like Walter Benjamin, Margaret Avison, Michael Ondaatje, Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Colleen Thibaudeau and Phil Hall. One section details Dragland’s respectful retrospective disengagement from the literary and social theory of non-bricoleur Northrop Frye. The eclectic and heterogeneous ensemble might be summed up in the words with which Cynthia Ozick describes Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay, “Virginibus Puerisque”: “an essay not short, wholly odd, no other like it, custom-made, soliciting the brightness of full attention . . . .” All this is prologue to a fascinating array of sentences drawn from novels, stories, poems, essays, songs and speeches, all grouped in rhetorical categories with the fancy Greek names but each pulling its own literary weight. This is a bricoleur’s assemblage, an assortment of bits gathered from here and there and stored up against the time when they might happen to come in handy for making something new. | Dragland’s work is both an essay on bricolage and an exercise in it. Engaging, exciting in a quiet way, the reader is invited into the process, as opposed to being, as in much postmodern writing, the butt of the process. This is metaessay, but the feel is different: not Donald Barthelme, but rather an old-timer showing the reader how he puts together his tables or murals or what have you. Dragland’s essay engages practical and philosophical issues fearlessly, without ever losing his plain, vernacular-based, Mark Twain-like idiom.
trade paper, 192 pages, $22
cover art by Sarah Hillock
design by Beth Oberholtzer
printed in Canada by Coach House Printing, Toronto
Floating Voice: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Literature of Treaty 9
Floating Voice addresses one of the most important cultural issues in Canada. Dragland is attempting to answer the basic question about Scott: How could the author of such moving poems about the Indians have at the same time been such a fierce exponent within the government of a policy aimed at their destruction? Of course, the issue transcends Scott. If we could understand his contradictions, we might understand our own: how as a culture we have at once romanticized and made war on the Native people. Dragland adopts the perfect style for his subject. He puts himself directly into the narrative and asks us to think along with him as he attempts to puzzle out the answers to this perplexing question.
Stan Dragland’s 12 Bars is a nifty fusion of genres. It looks a bit like prose but reads kind of like poetry, and acts as a sort of travelogue for a series of bars in downtown St. John’s . . . .
12 Bars doesn’t conform to a conventional storytelling structure, but it does have a credible, anecdotal arc. It is fuelled by a love of the arts, especially music, and the artists behind them, and by the appreciation of a timely, or untimely drink.
It is also fused with a passion for St. John’s, and Dragland’s awareness of the drama of this place, which plays out in humour and loss, his take on the lifts and turns in the affairs of this fair city.
— Joan Sullivan, Evening Telegram
Apocrypha: Further Journeys
“Reading was my darling pleasure,” Stan Dragland quotes from Bobbie Louise Hawkins, as an epigraph. It clearly was. And in this intimate—yes, intimate—journey through the highways and byways of Stan Dragland’s mind, he makes it our darling pleasure, too. The image of the house he drew as a child provides an insight into his particular focus. Viewed not from the front, as most children draw, but from catty corner, his drawing contained the inevitable sun, the front of the house, and that little bit more that is usually hidden: a view of the side. So it is with his writing. The inevitable sun the front of the house and that little bit more—a view of the side.
His memoir, part of the Writer as Critic Series published by NeWest, contains a number of forms including exegetical essays, prose poems, reflections and fragments. He has even added a scattering of photos and illustrations and a map for good measure. Some readers might find the amalgam of writing styles—at turns direct, suggestive, poetic and reflective—distracting. Others will enjoy this book, especially readers with a taste for prose that rewards careful rereading. The casual reader (and reviewer, I fear) won’t be able to plumb the full depth of this book easily. For example the structure of the book itself is creative. There are 26 chapters each tied to a letter of the alphabet; but there are also a series of “interchapters,” each introduced with an ampersand (a typographical symbol of which Dragland is fond). These interchapters seem to provide annotation and transition. He’s not always direct in these sections, but he does manage to keep the reader’s attention all the same.
—Ivan Muzychka, Newfoundland Quarterly
Stormy Weather: Foursomes
Stormy Weather is full-bodied, vivid stuff from a writer who seems to drink language and breathe words.
— Joan Sullivan, Evening Telegram
He writes within the complexities of the present moment, yet documents his feelings with honesty and wisdom. Stormy Weather remains true to Dragland’s critical acumen as much as it reveals a writer of deep, personal engagement. But what should we have expected?
—Marc Thackray, The Fiddlehead
[T]he simplicity and naturalistic speech of Dragland’s prose poems mask a beautiful depth of emotion and meditation, where the roving personality in private tumult draws readers into a ballad of more-than-ordinary correspondences with major world events and the essential companionship of literature, philosophy, music and art.
—Margaret Christakos, The Globe and Mail
The Drowned Lands
Dragland’s strength as a writer lies in his subtle ability to evoke the rich, often hidden tapestries of his characters’ inner lives pulsing just beneath the surface of social convention, just as his descriptions of landscape suggest that it is powerfully alive beneath the surface, roiling with mysterious forces and hidden truths that can barely be contained. The pent-up floodwaters of the Napanee River bearing down on the Drowned Lands become a metaphor of the powerful and inevitable push of history, dragging everything along in its path: “we are always, always, being swept along in a moment of becoming.”
—Domenic Beneventi, Canadian Literature
Dragland evokes the fragile life of human beings, and of the land itself, in virtuoso prose that runs the gamut from the colloquially brash to the tenderly nuanced. The result is a remarkable fusion of the human and the natural . . . .
—Janice Kulyk Keefer, The Globe and Mail