11 Canadians who wrote for The New Yorker, not named Alice Munro

By the Editors

Like a selfish child, Canada only remembers what you did for her today. She also spurns her toys until someone else claims them, and tends to prefer the escapism of fiction. To wit: Nadine Fladd’s recent, predictable National Post article, “The Out of Towners”, about Canadians who have appeared in The New Yorker, notes Alice Munro’s influence on the magazine, and mostly plays up the reign of a couple of contemporary short story writers (with a nod to the largely unread Morley Callaghan). 

In fact, plenty of Canadians have appeared in the great, monocled magazine, founded by Harold Ross and Jane Grant in 1925. Here are eleven of them. Not one is named Alice Munro or Sheila Heti. And all are worth feeling possessive about.

Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
Recommended by Evan Jones
The “Herring-choker-blue-noser-New-Englander,” Elizabeth Bishop, published so many of her poems in The New Yorker that there’s a book of her correspondence with the editors. Some may argue she doesn’t belong to Canada, but her childhood home in Great Village, NS, is a shrine—and we’re holding onto it. 

Julie Bruck (b. 1957)
Recommended by Carmine Starnino
Now a citizen of San Francisco, Julie Bruck spent her adult life in Montreal, where many of her early poems are set. Those of us who knew her then marvelled at how uncannily she captured the sights and texture of the city, through a descriptive ability often married to powerful emotional pay-offs. This gift was nowhere more evident than in “Who We Are Now,” her first acceptance in The New Yorker in 1990. Channeling the monologue of an identity-hopping immigrant parking lot owner, the poem’s spoken cadences masterfully buttress lines of shrewd social observation. The result was so arresting that, the week it appeared, my American lit prof at Concordia, Mervin Butovsky, set aside his prepared lecture on Henry James and instead devoted the two-hour class to unpacking the poem’s cunning moves. Bruck has since published four more poems in the magazine—the most recent “A Marriage” in 2011—and each time I undergo the same experience: drop everything, devour, share.

Anne Carson (b. 1950)
Recommended by Jason Guriel
Black hole sighting: Anne Carson’s last appearance in The New Yorker confirmed that a once-rising star had finally collapsed. It didn’t matter that it was 2014; the poet-classicist's chilly, dated poem about binary oppositions, “Pronoun Envy,” seemed designed to keep the corpse of 80s-era deconstruction on ice. But long before, she published better, warm-blooded work in the magazine. Look up the spooky elegy “Father’s Old Blue Cardigan,” collected in 2001’s Men in the Off Hours. Remember her work that way, when it had less pallor.

Malcolm Gladwell (b. 1963)
Recommended by Michael Lista
The pride of Elmira, Ontario, Malcolm Gladwell is pound for pound the most influential writer to appear in The New Yorker in a generation. Since being hired as a staff writer in 1996, Gladwell’s journalism—data-driven, Ted-Talky—has dove-tailed with the broader cultural changes brought about by Silicon Valley. Let’s call it the Moneyballing of daily life, hinged on the premise that everything from social policy to the training of athletes can be disrupted by 10,000 hours of hard work and a little meta-data. He’s come under fire for his work, with critics faulting Gladwell’s eagerness to shoehorn the complexities of human life into his meme-ready scientism (cf. his ethnic theory of plane crashes). Still, no one on either side of the 49th parallel has had such a transformative effect on The New Yorker, and on cultural journalism more generally, than Malcolm Gladwell.

Elisabeth Harvor (b. 1936)
Recommended by Carmine Starnino
Twelve years after winning over The New Yorker with a short story, Elisabeth Harvor. sold her second piece to the magazine in 1993, a poem called "The Death of the Nurse." The poem, which draws on Harvor’s experiences as a nursing student in a Saint John hospital, features a young speaker struggling with the unexpected death of a healthy colleague. Much of the narrative is given over to the eerie vision of the deceased woman as an advent calendar with “little doors all over her uniformed torso.” The lyricism is pleasingly strange and sinister and, like Harvor’s best poetry and fiction, obsessively immediate. Harvor writes, when she writes well, from necessity, generating a wisdom both threatening and beautiful: "The little white door can open to whatever you care to imagine: / an apple as red as the apple in the garden of Eden / or a slice of fresh liver."

Daryl Hine (1936-2012)
Recommended by Evan Jones
In his lifetime, Daryl Hine published a number of poems in The New Yorker, including the uncollected gem, “The Wasp,” which appeared in the September 14, 1963 issue. Prospects in Canada were grim, but in 1968 Hine landed a job as editor of Poetry magazine—the perfect way to secure the disinterest of his Canadian peers, who were focused on what it meant to construct a “Canadian” poem, as opposed to, say, an international readership. Late in life, Hine reversed the Latinate refrain from “The Wasp” for his final collection: “Art is perhaps too long, or life too short.”

George Johnston (1913-2004)
Recommended by Jason Guriel
“My little children eat my heart; / At seven o’clock we kiss and part, / At seven o’clock we meet again; / They eat my heart and grow to men.” That’s from George Johnston’s very un-Canadian poem “War on the Periphery,” which appeared in The New Yorker in 1951, and presents no policy brief, no easy moral position. Canada's nature-obsessed, nationalistic agenda of the 60s and 70s duly passed on Johnston, who remains a cult concern. Nevertheless, perfect poems like “War on the Periphery” would be classics in any other country’s canon.

Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)
Recommended by Evan Jones
Stephen Leacock was once really famous. Like outside of Canada and everything. He was a major influence on the founders of The New Yorker, and published, among other things, a handful of his humorous poems in the magazine. One such piece is an entertaining dictionary-entry list of future forgotten notable “worthies” in the March 11, 1939 issue. It includes this tidbit: “Matthew, Mark, Luke, John: side streets in Montreal.” Those are all characters on General Hospital, Stephen!

Eric Ormsby (b. 1941)
Recommended by Evan Jones
Besides Bishop, are there any other Canadians who have contributed as often to The New Yorker as Eric Ormsby? Thirteen of Ormsby’s poems have appeared in the magazine. A fourteenth, “A Freshly Whitewashed Room,” was accepted but has yet to appear. Here’s his most recent masterpiece, which Partisan was delighted to publish. 

Elise Partridge (1958-2015)
Recommended by Evan Jones
Two of the late, lamented Elise Partridge’s very best poems were published in The New Yorker in 2006, “Chemo Side Effects: Vision” and “First Days Back At Work.” In the former, she wrote with marvellous precision: “So many small things I still want to see: / sheen of my nephew’s corner eyelash, / snowflake circuitry, fleas’ thighs, / nebulae flocking in my husband’s iris, / the peaks and valleys of each mustard seed.” Elise left us in January of this year; her death went unremarked upon in two of the country’s three major papers, The National Post and The Toronto Star

Molly Peacock (b. 1947)
Recommended by Jason Guriel
“What happened to the Molly Peacock of New York City poetry, and where did she go?” So wondered Peacock herself when I interviewed her not too long ago. For a time, the poet, essayist, and former President of the Poetry Society of America waged a successful literary campaign in New York and managed to place a single poem, “A Gesture,” in The New Yorker in 1984. (She also appeared in other big American venues like The Paris Review and The Nation.) But she eventually left the Big Apple for slightly more tart Toronto. Peacock isn’t quite as invisible as other Canadian-American poets (like Hine), who by crossing the 49th parallel have confused Canadian critics—she’s the series editor for Best Canadian Poetry, after all. But Canada could show Peacock, responsible for some of the finest American poems of the 1980s, a bit more love. Charismatic, witty, and graceful, Peacock is national treasure we have yet to claim and bank. How Canadian of us.