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Too Bad
Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait
Robert Kroetsch
A prodigious body of innovative writing behind him, Robert Kroetsch turns to a starker lyrical mode in Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait. Oscillating between the many moods of a human heart that has lived through so much—from whimsy and scorn through desire, longing, lust, love, and serenity—these sketches mark a candid walk through the tortuous corridors of the poet’s remembering, and exemplify the rehearsed dictum of an old teacher: “Every enduring poem was written today.” Simply put, “This book is not an autobiography. It is a gesture toward a self-portrait, which I take to be quite a different kettle of fish.” -- Robert Kroetsch, from the Introduction
Format:  Trade Paperback
ISBN:  978-0-88864-537-1
Price:  CND$ 24.95, USD$ 24.95, £ 20.99
Discount:  Trade
Subject:  Poetry/Canadian Literature
Publication Date:  February 2010
Awards
2011 Association of American University Presses
AAUP Book, Jacket & Journal Show, Jackets and Covers
Reviews
These funny poems are serious. These serious poems are funny. Take your pick. Kroetsch has always been comfortable leading by example. These effervescent poems are a joy to read. (Full review at http://michaeldennispoet.blogspot.ca/2013/08/too-bad-robert-kroetsch.html) Michael Dennis, August 7, 2013
“This collection--so saturated with allusions, geography and the inevitable passage of time--nonetheless contains a strong element of humour, which makes Too Bad, Kroetsch’s first volume of poetry since 2004, worth the wait and a pleasure not to be missed.”
Heather MacLeod, New Trail, Spring/Summer 2010
"Robert Kroetsch tenders profound reflections of an artist's life.... Rich in humour, Too Bad features sketches of the author and cameo appearances by Odysseus, Orpheus, Hokusai, Rousseau, Mark Twain, and Eli Mandel among others. The poet's task is to 'invent us, again.”
Karl Jirgens, Canadian Literature, Winter 2010
"Being a writer for most of his life, Leduc resident Robert Kroetsch doesn't aim for awards as a reward to completing a finished work, but instead to engage the reader and for the love of writing. Kroetsch's Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait is one of the five books in Alberta currently competing for the public's vote for one of the largest literary prizes offered in Alberta. 'I was surprised that a book of poems could make the list in a field of seventy competitors. Perhaps a lot more people are looking to poetry for lessons on love and joy in a troubled time or perhaps my sense of the bawdy was a big draw,' commented Kroetsch.”
Bobby Roy, Leduc Representative, June 10, 2011 [Full article at http://www.leducrep.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3163266]
“Alberta writer Robert Kroetsch has always played the fine line between autobiography and ironic deception.... The collection of single-page poems that make up his Too Bad: Sketches Toward a Self-Portrait, seemingly all previously unpublished (something of a Canlit oddity, in this culture of the little magazine) are thoughtful, wise and wry.... Still the strength of Kroetsch for the reader remains in not knowing where his poems will go next, his ability to continually surprise.... Kroetsch the poet, the storyteller, the tavern tall-tale teller. There are, happily in this collection, few conclusions, but plenty of openings, plenty of compelling stories.”
rob mclennan, ARC Poetry Magazine, Winter 2011
"This poet is a sage professor emeritus of resiliency, who redeems contemporary society with classical mythology, contemplates prairie and pirates, juxtaposes his ancestors. All this is within the life-long poem, for which he has been composing a new installment in his journey...”
Anne Burke, Prairie Review, Spring 2010
"...poet, novelist, critical theorist, ex-professorial old-age pensioner, mischievous trickster and certifiable genius Robert Kroetsch, perhaps one of a half-dozen – oh, okay, maybe eight, tops – distinguished word-workers permanently ensconced in the penthouse of lyrical perfectitude, especially when it comes to versifyin’, particularly when it comes to his freshest collection, the bloody brilliant Too Bad. Too much. Simply way too much too good too great.”
Judith Fitzgerald, The Globe and Mail, May 7, 2010
"Instead of pushing on the edges of the poem, extending it over the prairie experimentally, the book finds Kroetsch in a quieter, less raucous mood. Formally, the language is quite simple and direct, although the poems are not simplistic, but spare and meditative. They develop in short, blunt statements, often affecting, sometimes comic...”
Jonathan Ball, November 10, 2010 [Full review at: http://www.jonathanball.com/?p=1301]
In Robert Kroetsch's recent collection of lyrical poetry, Too Bad, he explores the many facets of his emotional life with humour and warmth.... Kroetsch's unvarnished approach is part of his charm: a horse's ass is not a petunia. ‘To hell with plastic surgery. We've come to like the scars.’”
lindypratch.blogspot.com, accessed September 13, 2010
#10 on the Edmonton Journal "Edmonton Top 10”
Bestseller list
"Rich in humour, Too Bad is a long-poem suite featuring sketches of the author and cameo appearances by Odysseus, Orpheus, Hokusai, Rousseau, Twain, and Mandel among others. The poet's task is to 'invent us, again.' Too Bad meditates on childhood, education, river-boats, philosophy, art, travel, eroticism, food, brain functions, and artistic representation, concluding that '[m]aking meaning is easy enough, / but making the meaning mean is tough.'”
Karl Jirgens, Canadian Literature [See full review at http://www.canlit.ca/reviews.php?id=15222]
“Robert Kroetsch is a senior poet-both in terms of chronology and reputation-and so it is a great relief to see that he still firmly believes in play. In Too Bad: Sketches Towards a Self-Portrait, Kroetsch looks back as far his childhood in Alberta but dwells also on his recent past in Winnipeg (he has recently moved to Leduc, Alta.). Those more accustomed to Kroetsch's expansive use of the page in works such as Seed Catalogue will have to get used to a book full of three-line stanzas, some rhyming, some not. But Kroetsch, in the poem Touch, has even wryly anticipated this adjustment period: ‘Time is a kind of poet, writing three-line stanzas / on the blank above our eyes. We read the lines / with our fingers. We rush to the pharmacy.’”
Ariel Gordon, Winnipeg Free Press, June 26, 2010
"For some time, Kroetsch has deliberately twisted ideas of narrative and storytelling through poetry (and through fiction and essays, but we aren't discussing those here), saying the most in the least, and saying it sideways; saying in such a way that you don't always realize just what he's said, at first (if at all).... And how is it the best of Kroetsch's poetry, after so many years, still manages to bring out more questions than answers?”
rob mclennan, Globe and Mail, April 30, 2010 [Full article at http://tinyurl.com/3x4r8ge]
"Kroetsch transforms the everyday into poetic delight. He reads the paper and walks the dog, watches TV with ads for a 'wang stiffener,' scrapes the ice from his windshield en route to Starbucks for a latte. But modern life isn't simply empty kitsch. The references are as smart and well-suited as traditional poetic metaphors to nature and the classics. Refreshing is Kroetsch's dedication to the masculine story.... As a sketch towards a self-portrait Too Bad is expertly a window into a man's heart.”
Mike Landry, Telegraph-Journal, February 27, 2010
“Too Bad straddles the line between memoir and self-creation, replete with Kroetsch's trademark playfulness and ambiguity. In his long and successful literary career, [Kroetsch] has always resisted assignment to tidy category or transparent meaning.... Too Bad is true to form in its provocation and elusiveness.... Too Bad asks the reader to join in the act of self-creation. ‘We connect the dots. That's kind of what I'm asking the reader to do. And they might connect in different ways.’”
Geoff McMaster, ExpressNews, February 22, 2010 [Full article at: http://www.expressnews.ualberta.ca/print.cfm?id=10827]
"Recognizing that memory is fiction, Kroetsch tells a lot of tales, from childhood through adulthood...but the portrait that evolves is multiple, protean, impossible to pin down. The poems range from comic-philosophic meditations on writing through slightly satiric comments on our all-too-human behaviour to lovely, deliberately and intelligently nostalgic memories.... [Kroetsch] keeps writing new fictions of self, and offers his readers in Too Bad one more brilliant addition to his oeuvre.”
Douglas Barbour, Edmonton Journal, February 28, 2010

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