Writing the Terrain: Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets


280 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-55238-136-6
DDC C811'.54080327123




Edited by Robert M. Stamp
Reviewed by Allison Sivak

Allison Sivak is a librarian in the Science and Technology Library,
University of Alberta.


Robert Stamp has assembled a comprehensive poetic representation of the
physical, cultural, and political landscape of the province of Alberta
in this anthology. Drawing on the work of poets from at least six
decades, the book reflects a mix of voices, perspectives, and styles.
The publisher notes that the anthology’s scope covers the “main
roads, back roads, and gravel roads of this sprawling province.” An
appropriate metaphor, considering the range of poets and topics found
here. The editor states that he assembled the anthology by gathering
some of the works not only of more canonical Canadian writers, such as
Robert Kroetsch and George Bowering, but also of lesser-known writers,
collecting their poems through back issues of Canadian literary

While I appreciate the thoroughness of the collection, and the book’s
clever design (a suitcase spans the front and back covers, and the
suitcase’s interior is on the verso), my biggest complaint with this
book is its flat presentation. Stamp discusses the poems in his
introduction very much as an assemblage, with little context or critical
discussion of how Alberta (or even Canadian) poetry might have changed
over time. It would have been interesting to see a discussion about
urban and rural poetry, for example, or some allusion to the ways the
Rocky Mountains have been designated as a site for artistic inspiration.
It would also have been useful for Stamp to have included dates for each
work, which would have placed the poems in context. This is particularly
notable in poems of the late 1960s, when many non–First Nations
writers felt free to evoke the “Indian” as symbol of the so-called
western frontier. Such narrow perspectives, although annoying to the
contemporary reader, are still part of Canada’s literary heritage;
rather than excluding them from the volume, the inclusion of dates (as
well as some kind of reference in the introduction) would have been at
least some kind of critical attempt to understand them.


“Writing the Terrain: Travelling Through Alberta with the Poets,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16436.