UNB's Literary Tradition - Saint John

John Grube teaching literature at UNB Saint John in 1964 John Grube was the only instructor in English.  He didn’t stay long, but Prof. Grube got the campus’s literary tradition off to a rousing start by inviting the notorious Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to give a reading in Saint John and, from the estate of a close friend, establishing the Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection in the Ward Chipman Library.  He also had an impact on students.  Dina E. Cox (BA ’68), who is today a published poet and member of the Writers Federation of New Brunswick, remembers him as someone who honestly (if a little bluntly) criticized her work and helped her to “look more deeply” at things.

If Prof. Grube were to return today, he would undoubtedly be impressed with the way literature and literary appreciation has flourished in Saint John.  The Lorenzo Society, named for the great de Medici patron of the arts, was begun by his successors, William Prouty and Winifred Bogaards.  Over the years it has become a driving force for cultural activities on- and off-campus: art exhibitions, theatre productions and appearances by many of Canada’s most acclaimed authors (most of whom also make their way to the Fredericton, benefiting both campuses).  Now in its 12th year, the Lorenzo Reading Series is generally considered by the writers who visit to be the best in the country, attracting audiences of several hundred people.

It is augmented by the Backtalk Series, which takes place at UNB’s Inprint Bookstore in uptown Saint John, explores the relationship between the visual arts and literature and is made up of on-stage interviews, panel discussions, and lectures. And then there is the Cormorant Noontime Series, a daytime, on-campus reading series that matches student writers with a published writer.

The literary journal The Cormorant, which began in 1983, no longer exists.  Instead there is a student magazine of the literary and visual arts called Vox, which is in its 10th year.

The Lorenzo Reading Series features readings by major Canadian authors.  It is organized by Writer-in-Residence Anne Compton, winner of the Governor General's Award for Poetry.Much of this activity is overseen by UNB Saint John’s first writer-in-residence, the Governor-General’s Award winning poet Anne Compton. She notes, “As on-going writer-in-residence, I work with poets, novelists and non-fiction writers, help people with applications and submissions, but most of my work is on manuscripts. Recently, two of the novelists I have been working with for a two-year period submitted their manuscripts to publishers for consideration. A number of the poets I work with are now in print in journals.

“There is a great writing community in Saint John and that means both in the city community and at the university.  I teach two creative writing courses in poetry and when those aren't on, I run term-length workshops, two hours once a week, so that the poets are always writing.  I can't say enough about the pleasure that I get from working with the poets and novelists.  It really is an honour to be involved in people's literary ambitions,” Dr. Compton says.

Dr. Compton’s colleagues in English share her enthusiasm for writing, most especially poet and playwright Robert Moore who has directed and acted in a number of UNB productions.

Read about UNB's literary tradition in Fredericton.