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 The Collected Poetry of Carol Shields includes three previously published collections and over eighty unpublished poems, ranging from the early 1970s to Shields’s death in 2003.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 Author
Carol Shields (1935–2003) was an American-born award-winning Canadian novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, and poet. 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.
"[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 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)
"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