B. W. Powe

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B.W. Powe
BW Powe (Córdoba, Maimonides Monument)
B.W. Powe. May 2014. Córdoba (Spain).
Born (1955-03-23) 23 March 1955 (age 61)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Writer--poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher; Associate Professor of Literature
Genres fiction, non-fiction, poetry (lyric), essay, meditations
Spouse María Auxiliadora Sánchez Ledesma
Children Katharine Powe
Thomas Powe

Bruce William Powe (/p/; born 23 March 1955) is a Canadian poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, and teacher.

A.F. Moritz, poet, said in 2015: "What's B.W. Powe: A Poet, an aphorist, a lyric-philosopher historian, a master of the post-moder essay cybot...? Well, anyway, one of our best writers."

Early life and background[edit]

Born in Ottawa, Powe lived in Toronto from 1959 until 1996. His father is Bruce Allen Powe, author of the novels, Killing Ground, The Aberhart Summer and The Ice Eaters, among many.

He attended York University for English studies where in 1977 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He won the prestigious Book Award at York University for the highest grades achieved in his final year. He was then awarded an also prestigious Humanities Research Council scholarship to continue his studies at the University of Toronto. Powe received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Toronto in 1981; he studied there with Marshall McLuhan, Northrop Frye and Brian Parker. He received his PhD from York University in October 2009. His PhD is on Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, their crossings in history, their agon and complementarity (their conflicts and harmonies), and the stirring alchemy of their thought. The thesis was also concerned with the role and position of these visionaries in Canada, and the role and position of guides and mentors.

His uncle is Joe Schlesinger, senior correspondent for the CBC news.

On June 7, 2014, B.W. Powe was married to Maria Auxiliadora Sanchez Ledesma in Cordoba, Spain. Pictures from this magical day can be viewed on the blog, bwpowe.net


Poet, novelist, essayist, and critic, in 1995, B.W. Powe began teaching in the Department of English at York University where he taught first year introduction to literature courses as well as two additional courses entitled Visionary Literature: from Hildegard von Bingen and Dante to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, and Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Two Canadian Theorists. [1] In July, 2010, Powe was promoted to Associate Professor of Literature at York and given tenure. [2] Powe was the program director of the Creative Writing Program at York University during the 2013-2014 semester. At York he currently teaches courses on Modernism and Post-Modernism, and divides his time between researching visionary traditions (Visionary Literature: from Dante to Bob Dylan is still offered) and continuing the McLuhan Initiative for the Study of Literacies. [3]


Powe has written books of thoughts, poetry, essays, and fiction (long and short). He has also written nationally-seen columns for The Globe and Mail and "The Toronto Star". This is what the press has said over the years: He has been called "way cool" by the Globe and Mail, "one of our finest cultural commentators" by the Toronto Star, a poet who can write "hair-raising lines" that seem to come "fully formed from the cosmos" by The Globe and Mail and who takes "considerable, unfashionable risks" by The Malahat Review, "a visionary--a modern day Magellan" by The Montreal Gazette, "an intellectual terrorist" by Barbara Amiel in MacLean's, and "enigmatic...and necessary..." by The Edmonton Journal. Kenneth J. Harvey said Powe's "Heart beats against the current... [and in his work] at its ultimate core invents something original--and oftentimes breathtaking... To say brilliant would be an understatement..." (Ottawa Citizen) About Outage, the Calgary Herald said, "Powe has created something remarkable...a sort of video novel, a hybrid of genres and media that transcends the ordinary and offers a new vision in a enw way of a society dancing to electronically generated signals..." Pico Iyer said his writings represented "a soaring alchemical vision." R. Murray Schafer called Outage "a fully realized work of art." Canadian Literature said of his poetry that "[his] subtly textured themes...affirm the importance of the romantic voice in these troubled times." The Montreal Gazette, in 2007, said that his essay prose style is "like well-chosen brush-strokes on a canvas." At IdeaCity in 2001 Moses Znaimer called B.W. Powe's stances, public lectures and writings "a combination of poetry and rock'n'roll." In 2014 poet-critic Patricia Keeney called Powe´s work "an original combination of poetry and scholarship."

Elana Wolff, poet and critic, in her book Implicate Me: Short Essays on Reading Contemporary Poems (Guernica, 2010), has this to say about Powe's writings: "...a prescient writer on the cyber-age and codes and patterns...there is actually no neat genre-division in Powe's writing. ...His prose frequently reads like poetry... The Unsaid Passing is...[an] emotionally unshielded selection of pieces that range in length from five words to several sections. ...Powe wants both transpersonal and transcendent connection from poetry. ...unabashedly spiritual, and passionate...uncommon for our age. He wants us to acknowledge our capacity for deep feeling, our vulnerability and authentic need for each other, and for the sacred. ...In the poems of The Unsaid Passing, B.W. Powe goes where he has not gone in any of his previous work... and written luminous, numinous pieces of mystical and humanistic sensibility." (Pages 119-121)

His work has been profiled on CBC-TV, TVO, CITY-TV, Bravo-TV, ACCESS and CTV.

His novel, Outage, was listed as one of the best ten novels of the year by Philip Marchand in The Toronto Star, in 1995/96. It was also an editor's choice novel in the Globe & Mail in 1995. His book, A Tremendous Canada of Light was selected as a notable book of the year by the Globe and Mail in 1993. His book of poems, The Unsaid Passing, was shortlisted for The ReLit Prize in 2006. His novella, These Shadows Remain, was longlisted for The ReLit Prize in 2012.

Towards a Canada of Light (2006; the third revision of the Canada of Light theme) and Mystic Trudeau: The Fire and the Rose (2007) were conceived as companion pieces, part of his contemplation of the visionary possibilities of Canada and its cultural legacy. In Charles Foran's October 2007 review of Mystic Trudeau in The Walrus, he said of the book: "[it] likely makes of its subject only what Trudeau privately made of himself. Powe knew him in his final years and kept records of their conversations. Expanding on Trudeau's pithy remarks, Powe offers a reading of his character and legacy that is as challenging as many of Trudeau's own public assertions. The book is determined to credit Canada with a mystical tradition and to deliberate in that tradition's arguments, employing language that is poetic, emphatic... Wait for the book's kicker: a call for the establishment of a republic in a twenty-first Canada that has...pirouetted away from 'the last vestiges of colonialism and empire.'" Mystic Trudeau was recently profiled and reviewed in an essay by Wilf Cude in The Antigonish Review (Summer 2014).

His writings have been translated into French by Derrick de Kerckhove and Michelle Tisseyre. His writings have also been translated into Czech. He has been the program director or co-director for three significant events at York University in Toronto: Marshall McLuhan: What if He Was Right? (1997), The Trudeau Era (1998) and Living Literacies (2002).

He is currently continuing to develop the McLuhan Initiative for the Study of Literacies at York University.[4]

He read from this work at The Northrop Frye International Festival in Moncton in April 2011, and in Barcelona, Spain, at the McLuhan 100 conference, in May 2011. He spoke on Vico, Bruno, Joyce and McLuhan in Naples in June 2011. In the autumn of 2012 he was scholar/writer in residence at IN3, the University of Catalonya in Barcelona. He spoke at the University of Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, in October 2012.

His non-fiction study, "Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye--Apocalypse and Alchemy", was published by the University of Toronto Press in May 2014.

He returned as Scholar/Researcher in Residence at IN3 at the University of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, in the spring and summer of 2013, and then returned to IN3 in the spring-summer of 2014. There he was (and still is) collaborating with Cristina de Miranda (artist and professor) and Matteo Ciastellardi (technologist and professor) on the development and production of the meta-book, multi-text, "Opening Time: On the Energy Threshold." This is an electronic work devoted to exploring new manifestations of consciousness and perception in the digital information age.

He was the Creative Writing Program Coordinator in the Department of English from July 2013 until June 2014.

In the fall of 2014 he gave well-received lectures/presentations on his book, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy, at Founders College, York University, at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, the Mercer Union in Toronto, at the Italian Cultural Centre, and at St. Michael's College (in collaboration with Professor Robert Logan).

He has other works in progress: new poems (for a book called "Decoding Dust"); a collection of essays, thoughts, stories, and aphorisms; a study of visionaries and of the nature of inspiration; a trilogy of novels called "The Forking of the Ways." He has been at work since 2012 on a new book of poems and stories about his experiences in Spain--tentatively titled, "Eternal Andalusia".

In 2014 he began an editorial-creative relationship with the Hamilton Arts and Letters (HAL) publication.

In 2015 he founded a theatre group at York University, called "The Dead Tree Medium Group". The troupe is made up of York University Theatre/Creative Writing students. They performed "Technogenie"from "Decoding Dust" at the Pages Unbound Literary Festival in Toronto in May. In 2015 he was nominated to become a member of the Royal Society of Canada (he was rejected; no doubt after the Royal Society read what he had to say about the monarchy in Canada in his book Mystic Trudeau). Also in 2015 he was nominated for a total of six awards for his two books, Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, and Where Seas and Fables Meet (see below).

In the summer of 2015 he returned to be Writer-Scholar in Residence at IN3, the University of Catalunya, now in Casteldefels, Spain. In 2015 he gave lectures and readings in Barcelona, Toronto, and Ottawa.

These Shadows Remain[edit]

These Shadows Remain: A Fable is a novella published by Guernica in April 2011. It has garnered praise for its original concept and visionary story. Guernica Editions has summarized the story, "Images overrun the world. Toons filled with rage and hate hunger for life. A war between simulations and humans. People besieged in a castle of dreams. A mysterious knight shifts between worlds, holding the secret that could save all. Orphaned children lead him to the whirlwind, the terrible faceless source."

These Shadows Remain is a work of vision. Powe says the story came intact in a recurring dream. When he first had the dream, he wrote down an outline. The more the story appeared in his dreams, the more he added.[5]

Author Charles Foran has said, "...(I) am haunted by the book. It is, to say the least, intriguing, and its resonances are only settling in. The form itself is fascinating: a parable? A fable? A story for children, via their parents, or for parents, via their children? As per the Powe aesthetic, it is resolutely NOT of our time and our, ahem, literary culture, and belongs somewhere deep in a European literary tradition, where Carroll and Grimm sit alongside Musil and Amis. But I am also aware of the strong visual component to the tale, its cross of children's cartoon with anime... Likewise, its themes, or preoccupations, with how we've been so altered, chemically, spiritually, by those toons, those simulations. THAT is North American, of course, Canadian-McLuhan-Gibson, if also, I suspect, Eastern, Japanese. An enigmatic, striking piece of writing, one I shall return to."

Critic Marshall Soules acclaimed, "You've captured something important about our culture in These Shadows Remain... It's a compelling allegory about the mutual influence of the parallel worlds we live in, how we don't pay attention to important matters, how children are being sacrificed to a realm of fantasy. As a fable, it's of-a-piece with (Powe's) other work, coming at familiar themes in a different mode and register. Its poetry comes from fairy tale, romance, and pop culture."

"There are mysteries remaining, such as the migration between the screen and human world. The knight's confrontation with the wizard seems inconclusive and lacking in confrontation and resolution, but I appreciate this outcome. The wizard is also confused, and his power is limited. I like that. Reminds me of the Wizard of Oz - all smoke and mirrors and bluster. And recalls Edwin Abbot's satirical Flatland. I also enjoyed the role and character you gave the children. It's a caring and inspiring story that reflects directly on our confusion over fantasy and reality. On Hollywood Blvd., it's clear that fantasy is winning the battle for mindshare!"

Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy (University of Toronto Press)[edit]

"Powe studied under McLuhan and Frye in the 1970s. His long and intimate engagement with their work has culminated in a rich, subtly argued book which offers many first-hand insights. ...He convincingly proves that the extent of their interaction has been underestimated." Faye Hammil, Times Literary Supplement (London, England)

"Powe's study is trenchant in its vision and often rhapsodic in its style. Powe adopts the stance of a rhetorician--a fitting stance, given McLuhan's profound, lifelong interest in the art of rhetoric. It is a stance that involves not only observation of the evidence but regard for 'the beauty of a sentence'. (Powe also happens to be a novelist and a poet.) ...No one will ever write with such passion as Powe's on the vision of these two beleagured spiritual explorers, Frye and McLuhan, and their permanent importance." Philip Marchand, The National Post, June 27, 2014

"You hear a voice when you read a B.W. Powe book. All his works are voiced works where a personal voice--probing, playing, stretching, listening--is speaking to you. ...In Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy, B.W. Powe himself combines a talent for McLuhanesque probing with Frye's facility for pity, memorable statement. He learned his lessons well from his masters. And he delivers these lessons to his readers in personal and engaging prose. If you're looking for an indispensable exploration of two essential Canadian thinkers, this is the book." J.S. Porter, Dialogue Vol. 28, No.1, Autumn 2014

"An entirely fresh view of McLuhan and Frye, the great Orator and the great Theorist, as exuberant visionaries who breached the future in tandem during their years teaching at the University of Toronto. Powe’s scholarship is marked by a distinctive ease and clarity of style rooted in a rigorous reading of all the pertinent texts." Barry Callaghan, editor-in-chief, Exile: The Literary Quarterly

"Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy is a powerful study in literary theory and philosophy, written by a scholar with intimate knowledge and understanding of these twin giants of the 20th century intellectual landscape. This highly original work provides us with a dialectic between systems of thought that leads to a synthesis of unequivocal significance, or perhaps more properly, a portrait of polar oppositions that is mediated in a manner that is not only balanced and harmonious, but altogether magical." Lance Strate, Department of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University, and author of Echoes and Reflections, On the Binding Biases of Time, and Amazing Ourselves to Death

"Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye is the first book to thoroughly address the uncanny relation between these two great Canadian thinkers in a systematic way. B.W. Powe shows a deep knowledge of both McLuhan’s and Frye’s works, as well as of their critics." Elena Lamberti, Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, University of Bologna

"B.W. Powe is a rare intellectual figure in the Canadian landscape. He has the sensibility and eloquence of a literary critic, and the power of persuasion of a cultural critic, definitely in the same league with the Canadian giants of the twentieth century." Francesco Guardiani, Dept. of Italian, University of Toronto

"A masterpiece of literary criticism." Robert K. Logan, Dept. of Physics, University of Toronto.

"Two intellectual giants on the Canadian landscape had to wait for this book to illuminate their work individually and in relation to each other. Powe raises the bar for intellectual historiography with exhaustive, impeccable research and a presentation crafted in lucid prose. His treatment of McLuhan and Frye is accessible to readers coming to the subject for the first time and compelling for seasoned scholars guaranteed to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the extraordinary complementarity between McLuhan and Frye." W. Terrence Gordon, author of Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding


"A magnificent and inspiring work... It expresses [Powe's] liberation philosophy, with much that is personal, woven into rhapsodic layers. Threads gain resonance; fables and anecdotes hang in the mind (and heart), ready to bloom and reach for the sky - music of the spheres. It soars... I love the story about Comet Yoga, its tree imagery, and dueling storytelling between mother and son... As a student of media, I appreciate [Powe's] wisdom and insights about the Structure, places of dissent and openings, wave gypsies and their networking... a voice brimming with wisdom and love..."

Marshall Soules, Media Theorist, critic, painter, Professor

"On the back page of Where Seas and Fables Meet... we read that B.W. Powe is first and foremost a philosopher: followed by a poet, novelist, and essayist. The ordering is fitting because here, in his latest contribution to world literature, Powe forges in the smithy of his soul a remarkable assembly of shorts...that differs significantly from most other philosophers of the not too distant past. Indeed, his writing is highly accessible (it is neither abstruse, nor is it laced with terroristic obscurantism). ...[it] exudes profound, at times humourous, thought-provoking insights into the human soul."

R.A. Paskauskas, author, biographer, professor (University of Toronto)

"B.W. Powe, like a child of the world, fills his interval ecstatically in art, song and fable. He delivers multiple pulsations. [This] is his most personal and intimate book. It's Powe unbuttoned, free-ranging and wild. It's my personal favourite among his ever-growing contribution to Canadian letters."

J.S. Porter, Dialogue, Summer 2015

"In Where Seas and Fables Meet, B.W. Powe has produced a volume which in his own words 'gives permission to wandering'. What he means by this is first that the work meanders in and our of various forms, from aphorism to fragment and short prose parables. As well, it means that it traverses a number of diverse areas of focus and concern. This apparent wandering is, nonetheless, thematically cohesive and skillfully sustained throughout Powe's literary journey. To mention simply one of many significantly salient themes is that of 'psychotic institutions', or what he otherwise calls 'the structure', among whose many alternate names he includes Moloch, Big Brother, Hitlerism/Stalinism, the System, the Trilateral Commission, the G.W. Bush Administration, and the Military-Industrial Complex (along with Blake's earlier version of it--The Dark Satanic Mills). In this relation, notably, Powe likewise identifies the zeitgeist associated with online networks, pointing out in 'Networks Uprising' that 30% -40% of global citizens calling out for change constitute a seismic shift in consciousness. No revolutionary movements in the past ever had such a percentage of popular support.' Observing the existence of a kind of a general cyber longing for 'the end of representative democracy and the rise of participatory democracy,' he includes among such movements Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. And he notes that--behind these--lies a widely shared perception that 'democracies are not democratic enough'. Ain't that the very truth?"

Dr. Phil Rose, President, Media Ecology Association; author: Radiohead and the Global Movement for Change (Rowan and Littlefield)

"The work of B.W. Powe invites mindfulness. ...no man in Canada is writing this kind of rapturous, self-revealing, un-ironic lyric... like a third-eye on fire... Reading Powe now calls up soulfulness anew."

Elana Wolf, Brick Books, Week 33, August 2015

"B.W. Powe's Where Seas and Fables Meet gathers parables, aphorisms, fragments, and thoughts but collectively transcends and even defies those labels. Powe's great gift as a writer here is not applying a formula for drawing readers in but in displaying an openness of mind and spirit that invites readers in. When he writes in elegaic mode, as in The Sad Angel, one senses at once the delicacy and tenderness that is too often missing from conventional elegies and their inevitable conclusions. Indeed, one of several possible conclusions to The Sad Angel is evoked not within the text itself but in a later selection titled Monstrosities. No matter the subject, and they are very broad ranging in this collection, Powe consistently achieves exemplary balance. Skepticism about the questionable benefits of technology, of a piece with Powe's penetrating study elsewhere of Marshall McLuhan, is set against thoughtful analyssis of the positive effect--McLuhan's key word--of student uprisings in Montreal and Quebec City: "The iBrain generation (supposedly unfocussed and self-absorbed) found focused in the cry against calcified thought." The sheer range of Powe's subject matter is exhilarating: Dante's Commedia complemented by a closing passage of the book addressed in a very personalway to every reader; a selection addressed to Richard Dawkins, moving (and movingly) within a few pages to "what we hope will be illuminations of the larger soul;" the coincidentia oppositorum of The Angelic and The Demonic running throughout the book; Powe in overdrive with four passages titled Wilde Things that anchor the reflections on Wilde and transport the reader by the end of the fourth into a Brechtian moment. Powe gives us guffaws in the midst of the most serious topics (Identity Crisis) and gasps of wonder at his metaphors: "The Morse ode of the heart is love." Much of the time, he is a latter day James Joyce, reaffirming that he is here to read the signatures of all things: "The trees rustle in the wind, the trees whispering what seems to be word 'yes.' The trees have letters too." Where Seas and Fables Meet is a book that makes you hold your breath and allows you to finally let it go only with the greatest reluctance. Inspiration, literally."

 W. Terrence Gordon, author of Marshall McLuhan: Escape into Understanding

"Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye: Apocalypse and Alchemy" was nominated by Dr. Alex Kuskis for The Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology, and also for The Suzanne K. Langer Award and The Lewis Mumford Award. "Where Seas and Fables Meet" was nominated for The Mary Shelley Award for Outstanding Fictional Work. All of these awards are American-based.


  • 1984: "A Climate Charged" (Mosaic) ISBN 0-88962-258-2
  • 1987: "The Solitary Outlaw" (Lester & Orpen Dennys) ISBN 0-88619-141-6
  • 1989: "Noise of Time" in "The Glenn Gould Profile", Collections Canada, National Library Archives
  • 1993: "A Tremendous Canada of Light" (Coach House) ISBN 0-88910-415-8
  • 1995: "Outage: A Journey into Electric City" (Random House) ISBN 0-394-22124-9
  • 1997: "The Solitary Outlaw", revised and expanded (Somerville House)ISBN 1-895897-79-3
  • 1997: "A Canada of Light", revised and expanded (Somerville House) ISBN 1-895897-89-0
  • 2004: "The Living Literacies Print Record", editor (Coach House) ISBN 0-9736828-0-9
  • 2005: "The Unsaid Passing" (Guernica) ISBN 1-55071-209-8
  • 2006: "Towards a Canada of Light", revised and expanded again (Thomas Allen) ISBN 0-88762-228-3
  • 2007: "Mystic Trudeau: The Fire and The Rose" (Thomas Allen) ISBN 0-88762-281-X
  • 2011: "These Shadows Remain: A Fable" (Guernica) ISBN 978-1-55071-314-5
  • 2014: "Marshall McLuhan and Northrop Frye, Apocalypse and Alchemy" (The University of Toronto Press) ISBN 978-1-4426-4811-1
  • 2014: Two Poems, "Reader" and "Technogenie" in "The Medium is the Muse: Channeling Marshall McLuhan", edited by Lance Strate and Adeena Karasick (Neo Poiesis Press), ISBN 978-0-9855577-5-1
  • 2014-15: "Opening Time: On the Energy Threshold." (IN3, University of Catalunya/York University)
  • 2015: "Where Seas and Fables Meet: Parables, Aphorisms, Fragments, Thought" (Guernica) ISBN 978-1-77183-019-5
  • 2016: "Decoding Dust" (Neo Poiesis Press). ISBN 978-0-9903565-8-5 Spring 2016
  • 2016: "The Tigers of Perception" (Hamilton Arts and Letters: HAL/Samizdat). Autumn 2016


  1. ^ Various Authors (Dec 1, 2011). Understanding Media, Today 2011-12 (Fuera de Colección). Editorial UOC. p. 28. ASIN B00PJ2Y6Z4. 
  2. ^ Ralón, Laureano. "Interview with B. W. Powe". Archived from the original on 24 April 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "B.W. Powe". Archived from the original on 24 April 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  4. ^ McLuhan Initiative for the Study of Literacies, Staff
  5. ^ Interview with B.W. Powe | Open Book: Toronto

External links[edit]