Alden Nowlan

Hailed as one of the greatest Canadian poets of the twentieth century, Alden Nowlan was born in Stanley, Nova Scotia on 25 January 1933. Though he came from an impoverished background and dropped out of school in the fifth grade, he was a voracious reader and dedicated writer from a young age. After moving from Nova Scotia to New Brunswick at the age of nineteen, Nowlan got in touch with Fred Cogswell, then editor of The Fiddlehead. He began to publish his poems regularly in The Fiddlehead and in 1958 Cogswell published his first collection of poetry, The Rose and the Puritan. Less than a decade later, Nowlan’s collection Bread, Wine and Salt won the 1967 Governor General’s Award for Poetry in English, the country’s most prestigious poetry prize. Though Nowlan also wrote fiction, drama, and essays, he is best known for his verse, which displays a deeply personal (indeed, confessional) humanism that is unique to Canadian literature. Written in clear, accessible, and colloquial language, and often mixing traditional forms with free verse, Nowlan’s poetry was written to be read by all: “if there comes a time that truck drivers read poetry,” Nowlan famously remarked, “mine will be the poetry they read” (Interview 61). This desire to make his poetry accessible to everyone distinguished Nowlan from his modernist predecessors while also reinforcing his commitment to humanism. Much of Nowlan’s work is set in New Brunswick and his poetry is deeply informed by the social and political context in which it emerged. At its core, his work is concerned with the intrinsic value of human life. Combining deeply personal experiences with a profound sympathy for all people, Nowlan’s poetry greatly influenced the direction of Canadian literature in the latter half of the twentieth century and has often earned him the title “New Brunswick’s greatest poet.”

For the full Author Page on Nowlan, click here.


The linked Author Page contains the poems "Beginning," "It's Good to Be Here," "They Go Off to Seek Their Fortunes," "The Red Wool Shirt," "Daughter of Zion," "Britain Street," "An Exchange of Gifts," and "He Sits Down on the Floor of a School for the Retarded."