Remembering Joe Rosenblatt (1933-2019)

We were saddened last week by the news that one of our wonderful PQL poets, Joe Rosenblatt, had passed away.

I never got the chance to meet Joe in person. Instead, we met through our email correspondence, first working on his collection The Bird in the Stillness, and then, most recently, pulling together information for his book Bite Me!: Musings on Monsters and Mayhem. Through his messages, I got the sense of a kind and passionate poet with seemingly limitless enthusiasm. He was also a talented artist, whose drawings seemed to me always to be both whimsical and profound.

Perhaps the best indication of Joe’s character is that he had so many friends who loved him dearly. Many of them were literary figures as well, and only too happy to write an honest review or an excited blurb for his latest collection. Our condolences and best wishes go out to everyone in Joe’s circle in this difficult time.

In honour of Joe Rosenblatt, today, we’re shining a spotlight on his life and works.


Who was Joe Rosenblatt?

  • A talented Canadian writer who produced many books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction
  • A former writer in residence at a number of Canadian universities
  • An accomplished visual artist, with published collections of drawings
  • A Toronto-born blue-collar guy who moved to the beauty of Vancouver Island
  • A man with a fascination with and appreciation of the natural world, as well as a dedicated servant to the Muse


What did he work on?

  • His first collection of poetry, The LSD Leacock, was the second book of poems to be published by Coach House.
  • He won the Governor General’s Award in 1976 for his collection Top Soil (Press Porcépic).
  • He wrote autobiographical fiction such as Escape From the Glue Factory (Exile Editions,1985) as well as a novel Beds & Consenting Dreamers (Oolichan Books, 1994).
  • He also produced several collections of drawings, including as Doctor Anaconda’s Solar Fun Club (1978).
  • He served as a senior editor of Jewish Dialogue magazine and an associate editor of The Malahat Review.
  • With the Porcupine’s Quill, he published:


What people have said about him?

  • ‘[Rosenblatt’s] sure, steady authorial voice and his courageous willingness to look into the luminous darkness at the centre of the human heart make this difficult material into a compelling beauty.’ —Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun [Read the full review »]
  • ‘Reading [Rosenblatt’s] poems or looking at his drawings is a slightly mad, giddy, freewheeling ride. It seems to me that his work is not a journey or quest because he is already where he wants to be, happy among the sometimes bewildering world of shape-shifters.’ —Marta Zaborska-Quinn
  • ‘Joe Rosenblatt has been a quirky and vital part of Canadian literature and art for over 50 years and his latest collection attests to how his abilities have continued to burgeon, while his unusually ectoplasmic and metamorphic phantasmagorias of rhythm and image remain powerfully consistent’ —Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews Blog
  • Read his obituary over at BC Book Look


Where can I find more of his work?


What should I read next?


Where can I find general information about Joe Rosenblatt?


Where can I win some of his work?

Open Book is currently holding a contest to win a three-book prize back on the “monsters and mayhem” theme. Click here to head on over and find out how you can enter—but be sure to do it before 11:59pm on Sunday, March 24, 2019!


PortraitThank you for taking a moment to learn more about this creative force in Canadian literature. He will be missed by so many of us who admired his spirit, his talent and his kindness.

Best, Steph

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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.