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Volume 11, Number 2 (1986)

Alden Nowlan As Regional Atavist

  • Fred Cogswell
May 22, 2008


Janice Tyrwhitt's "The Man from Desolation Creek" is brilliant journalism in that it gives the facts about Alden Nowlan's life in a human, readable way but, at the same time, so glosses over their deeper implications that a casual reader's feelings or imagination need never be disturbed. Yet it is these very facts, working on Nowlan's feelings and imagination, that produced the wonderfully bitter-sweet texture of his work. In other words, Tyrwhitt's article, designed for a popular audience, emphasizes such graphic details as would interest a non-literate public, but it ignores Nowlan's writing. Michael Brian Oliver's study, Poet's Progress, although it does on occasion use pertinent biographical details, is resolutely academic and literary. It is essentially thematic and it attempts to fit its subject into an already widely accepted thesis in current Canadian literary criticism. However, Nowlan can be seen as a regionalist rather than a modernist based on the poet's basically unchanging Maritime attitudes to two very important aspects of that region: women and outsiders.