Home Book Award Newfoundland writer Stan Dragland, co-founder of poetry press Brick Books, dies at 79

Newfoundland writer Stan Dragland, co-founder of poetry press Brick Books, dies at 79


The Canadian literary community remembers Newfoundland writer, editor and literary critic Stan Dragland, who died at the age of 79 on August 2 of a sudden cardiac arrest in Trinity, Newfoundland.

Dragland, who co-founded one of Canada’s few poetry publishers, Brick Books, was also the founding editor of the literary magazine Brick and a writer whose poetry, non-fiction and literary criticism have won several awards. over his career spanning more than four decades.

Dragland, originally from Calgary, later settled in St. John’s, where he was an integral part of the literary and artistic community.

“I don’t know what to say about losing Stan,” said Newfoundland poet and novelist Michael Crummey, who called Dragland his “best friend.” Radio-Canada Books by email.

“He was such a quiet and timid presence that it is easy to underestimate what an enormous – and extremely positive – force he was in my life, in the province he adopted as his home and in the cultural life of the country. “, Crummey added. .

He was such a low-key presence that it is easy to underestimate what an enormous force he was in the cultural life of the country.-Michael Crummey

A long-time professor of English literature at the University of Western Ontario, Dragland co-founded Brick Books in 1975 with fellow poet Don McKay and served as its publisher for many years.

Dragland was also the poetry editor for the publishing house McClelland & Stewart from 1994 to 1997, supporting a new generation of Canadian poets.

Dragland’s work has won several awards and nominations over the years: his first novel, 1979’s peckertrackswas shortlisted for the Books in Canada First Novel Award; Floating Voice: Duncan Campbell Scott and the Literature of Treaty 9 (1994) won the Gabrielle Roy Prize for Canadian literary criticism; 12 bars (2002) was co-winner of the bp Nichol Chapbook Prize; Apocrypha: other journeys (2003) won the Newfoundland and Labrador Rogers Cable Award for Non-Fiction. His most recent book, Gerald Squiresa retrospective on Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires, won the 2019 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for non-fiction.

Stormy Weather: Quartets (2005) was shortlisted for the EJ Pratt Poetry Award, and Strangers and Others: Newfoundland Essays (2015) was shortlisted for the BMO Winterset Award.

In 2020, Dragland was named to the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour.

Listen | Stan Dragland on his 2015 Newfoundland essay book:

W.A.M.13:31Strangers and Others, New Newfoundland Essays by Stan Dragland

Dragland, known as one of Canada’s leading champions of independent publishing, has devoted much of his time to mentoring and nurturing new and established literary voices, including publishing new work through The Brick Books and teaching emerging writers at the Banff Center and in Chile.

“He was endlessly creative and supportive of any creative endeavor he touched as an editor, contributor or cheerleader. It was all about love and joy for Stan, in his work and in his life,” said said Crummey.

Deep Too is a 2013 non-fiction collection by Stan Dragland. (Book * hug Press)

Dragland’s collaborations have extended to publishing his own work with small presses, including those in 2013 deep tooa non-fiction storybook about the phenomenon of human competitiveness, with independent Toronto publisher Book*Hug Press.

Jay MillAr, co-editor of Book*hug (along with his wife Hazel Millar), recalls knowing Dragland and his work even before meeting him for the first time on a trip to Newfoundland.

“A mutual friend and poet arranged a reading for the two of us, and Stan read an early draft of an article on the subject of male bravado and competition. This work became the text that Hazel and I would eventually publish as deep tooa book of thoughtful and entertaining non-fiction stories, and certainly one of the most original books we’ve ever published,” MillAr said. Radio-Canada Books by email.

“On the one hand, it’s a very small book, the kind that can fit in the palm of your hand (which Stan found hilarious given the subject matter), and it contains the thoughtful work of one of the writers most unique Canadians of the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Dragland would also continue to urge Book*hug to publish 2014 Aerial carnationthe first novel by Argentinian writer Guadalupe Muro, whom he mentored at the Banff Centre.

“He was very passionate about the book and Lupe’s decision to write the book in English rather than his native language, Spanish. While working on the book with us, Stan shared that Lupe’s beautiful writing made it possible to fall in love with literary publishing again,” said Millar.

“Hazel and I were surprised and deeply moved when Stan flew from Newfoundland to Toronto to attend the book launch, where he introduced Guadalupe and his new book to Canadian readers with intelligence and grace.

“We are honored to have these memories of working with such a kind, generous and wise person in Canadian letters,” added MillAr. “We hold those memories close and are grateful to have known and worked with Stan.”

Dragland was also an integral part of Newfoundland’s creative community, said poet George Murray, founder of the defunct literary website Bookninja and former St. John’s Poet Laureate.

Murray is married to fellow author Elisabeth de Mariaffi, whose short story collection nominated for the Giller Prize in 2012 How to get along with womenwas published by Dragland – who also performed at the couple’s wedding in 2014.

“Stan contacted me when I came to Newfoundland 16 years ago. He was kind and welcoming,” Murray said via email. “By the time Elisabeth and I got married, he had become a regular at our Friday night kitchen parties, and we were invited to jam sessions at his house with other local writers and musicians. He was always so calm, but smiling his half-smile.

Every time he opened his mouth to speak, it was always the right thing that came out. His wisdom was immense, both as a literary character and as a human.-Georges Murray

“I fear silence, but not Stan. He could sit quietly, just listen, until he had something to say. And whenever he opened his mouth to speak, it was always the right thing that came out. His wisdom was immense, both as a literary figure and as a human,” he added.

“He and his dear friend Holly Hogan sang to us inside and outside the venue of our wedding – a public performance he may not have been the most comfortable with, but he did. nonetheless did as a great friend. I was sad not to see him, except fleetingly for the past two years, but I feel honored to have known him in the first place.”

Dragland is survived by his wife, poet and novelist Beth Follett, also founder and editor of independent Newfoundland-based publisher Pedlar Press.

“He was months away from turning 80 when he died,” Crummey said. “But I only heard Stan express concerns or doubts about his age in relation to the projects he was in the middle of and the projects he hoped to be involved in – wanting more time to talk about the world he loved, to ‘offer to us with his ironic, discreet and ingenious voice; to make us visible to ourselves.