Alison Calder, poet (born in London, England on 21 Dec 1969). Raised in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Alison Calder earned a PhD in English literature from the University of Western Ontario, following a BA from the University of Saskatchewan and an MA from the University of Western Ontario.
Calder's debut collection of poetry, Wolf Tree (2007), is infused with reverence for the natural world (See Environment). The book is saturated with images of fishing and hiking, but Wolf Tree is no mere homage to the splendour of the outside world. Instead, the book continually surprises readers with its range, and at every turn of the page, we find startlingly new emotions, topics and forms. Wolf Tree is a book filled with circus freaks and natural disaster, with quiet domestic love and equally quiet domestic chores. It is a book that alludes to Heidegger on one page and prairie cookbooks on another.
From an ecological perspective, perhaps the most significant accomplishment of Wolf Tree is the way in which Calder forcefully breaks down the distinction between human and nature, continually reminding readers that they are a part of the natural world. Calder allows readers no safe, comfortable distance from nature. In the first poem, we read of a person inhabited by a bird. The speaker adapts to the intrusion, claiming: "Lately I've learned to see through wings." But still, she can never achieve ultimate unity of self in opposition to nature, and the poem concludes: "Only the corner of my eye can give me away./ A small fluttering thing tries to get out." The tone of Wolf Tree is often dark. In "Imagine," for example, readers are exposed to a variety of common tortures inflicted upon young women (See Women's Movement). Ultimately, Wolf Tree exposes a lack of respect - for ourselves, for each other, and for the world in which we live.
Wolf Tree was a finalist for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman (2008), a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for the best first book of poetry by a Canadian (2008), and winner of the Aqua Books Lansdowne Poetry Prize at the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards. Calder was awarded the Bronwen Wallace Award in 2004.
Alison Calder is also an influential critic of Canadian literature, particularly in the field of regionalism. In 1996, she completed a PhD dissertation entitled "The Lie of the Land: Regionalism, Environmental Determinism, and the Criticism of Canadian Prairie Writing" under the direction of renowned Canadian poet and critic Frank Davey. Since then, she has published a collection of essays entitled History, Literature, and the Writing of the Canadian Prairies (2005) and edited collections by Tim Lilburn and Frederick Philip Grove. Alison Calder expresses concern over the death of the professional critic and the rise of the ignorant one: "Why should writers now have to aim to reach the lowest common denominator? I don't want to hear what celebrities have to say about my writing - I want to hear what readers have to say about it, and if they happen to be celebrities, that's fine too. Maybe it's good that poetry increasingly happens in small and secret places." Calder is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Manitoba. She lives in Winnipeg with her husband, Warren Cariou.