Lynn Crosbie

Lynn Crosbie, poet, novelist, and columnist (born at Montreal, PQ, 1963).
Lynn Crosbie, poet, novelist, and columnist (born at Montreal, PQ, 1963).

Lynn Crosbie

Lynn Crosbie, poet, novelist, and columnist (born at Montreal, PQ, 1963). A controversial and popular voice in contemporary literary fiction and POETRY, Toronto author Lynn Crosbie is known for combining the personal and the political into potent and memorable works about violence, relationships, citizenship, and femininity. Her combative, yet often sensitive, voice has made her a popular public intellectual through both her controversial creative choices and her columns in Toronto's the GLOBE AND MAIL.

As Academic

Crosbie received her PhD in English from the UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO after completing her dissertation on the work of popular American confessional poet Anne Sexton. Her teaching career includes periods at the UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH and the ONTARIO COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN. She has also edited a collection of critical work on female authors and the body (The Girl Wants To, Coach House, 1993) and a book of personal ESSAYS (Click: Becoming Feminists, MacFarlane, Walter, & Ross, 1997).

As Poet

Crosbie's transition into creative output began early: her first book was one of poetry. Miss Pamela's Mercy appeared in 1992 from Coach House Books and caused a significant critical reaction for a debut book, including reviews in mainstream literary journals like BOOKS IN CANADA and more avant garde publications such as Open Letter. Coach House also published her follow-up, VillainElle (1994), a title that quite adroitly summarizes many of Crosbie's humours and motifs: confrontation, dialectics, form, and womanhood.

Two of Crosbie's best-known collections, Pearl (HOUSE OF ANANSI, 1995) and Liar (Anansi, 2006), are filled with monologues concerning the mechanics of a dying relationship, inspired by the personal life of the poet. These books, coupled with Crosbie's early academic interest in Anne Sexton, have gone a long way towards identifying her as part of a confessional feminist tradition. While there is truth in this generalization, it may also limit other discussions of her oeuvre, including her interest in popular culture and crime, not to mention her humour, which is considered atypical of that tradition. These elements of her work can be seen in Missing Children (MCCLELLAND & STEWART, 2003), the collection of poems between Pearl and Liar, whose speaker is a sociopathic television executive, and whose tone has been described as cinematic, in contrast to the cultivated intimacy of confessionalism.

As Novelist

Lynn Crosbie's concern with violence is even more apparent in her fictional output. It was the publication, in 1997, of Paul's Case: The Kingston Letters, her treatment of the Paul Bernardo murder trial, that brought her wider national attention along with the controversy her work continues to court. The epistolary NOVEL (containing 52 letters, from hate mail to flirtations, written to the imprisoned rapist by women) was met with critical praise but also a great deal of anger in the national press. This reaction, and Crosbie's consistently unapologetic public rebuttals, became a case study in the artistic freedom afforded to authors, and in the use of recent history in fictional works.

Crosbie returned to themes of violence, power, and history with her follow-up, Dorothy L'Amour (Harper Collins, 1999), based on the murder of BC-born model Dorothy Stretten. The novel was written as a mock diary kept by the tragic protagonist. It was followed in 2011 by the fictionalized memoir Life is About Losing Everything (Anansi), a less formally constricted exercise than either of her earlier novels.

Lynn Crosbie's prolific, diverse and often divisive creative work, when coupled with her regular discussions of culture and current events in the Globe and Mail and other media outlets, have made her one of the most recognizable names among Canadian writers who came of age writing about Canadian topics in the 1990s, a generation immediately succeeding the explosion of nationalist literature of the 1960s to 1980s. Moreover, the variety of her subjects--and the intensity with which she inhabits, investigates, and sometimes defends them--mark her as an author of rare and important versatility.