Keith Maillard

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Keith Maillard, Salt Spring Island, 2015

Keith Maillard (born 28 February 1942 in Wheeling, West Virginia) is a Canadian-American novelist, poet, and professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia.[1] He moved to Canada in 1970 (due to his opposition to the Vietnam War)[2][3] and became a Canadian citizen in 1976.[4][5]

Family background[edit]

Maillard has French, Canadian, and American roots. Maillard's parents divorced when he was a baby and he never knew his father.[5][6] His father, Eugene C. Maillard, avoided the family tradition of glassblowing work, trained as a draughtsman, and worked for twenty-five years at the Hanford Site nuclear plant in Richland, Washington.[7] Maillard’s mother’s family settled in the Ohio River Valley in the late 18th century and it is from her family stories that Maillard draws inspiration for much of his historical fiction. He describes the process of his earliest childhood fiction in his 2011 essay, "Kilroy: A Writer's Childhood."[8]

Keith Maillard is married with two daughters[9] and lives in West Vancouver. His mother-in-law is Canadian novelist Rohan O'Grady.[10]


In the early 1970s, Maillard worked as a freelancer for CBC radio, contributing pieces to This Country in the Morning, Five Nights, and Our Native Land.[11][9] He also contributed to periodicals, including Fusion, Body Politic, Malahat Review, Books in Canada, Canadian Literature, and newspapers.[9] He was in the Writers' Union of Canada, served on the National Council for two years,[12] and co-founded the Federation of BC Writers.[13][14] Maillard studied music at Vancouver Community College, played the Irish pipes, taught recorder and the rudiments of music for the Vancouver School Board and Vancouver Community College,[5][9] and played bass in the first band formed by Vancouver singer-songwriter, Ferron. In the late 1970s Maillard taught writing workshops in Vancouver’s literary centre, The Literary Storefront, and participated in a number of readings and other events there.[15][16] In 1979 Maillard interviewed Canadian novelist Howard O’Hagan who explained to him his writing process; the interview appeared as a chapter in Margery Fee’s Silence Made Visible: Howard O’Hagan and Tay John (1992).[17]

Maillard's first published novel, Two Strand River, appeared in 1976, published by Dave Godfrey's Press Porcépic. Most reviewers were confounded by this strange book with its cross-gendered protagonists and weird events, but Two Strand River soon acquired a cult following, came to be labeled a classic of Canadian magic realism,[18][19][20] and has been republished twice.


Maillard's second published novel was actually the first one he had begun; the book rejected by 26 publishers finally – after having passed through eight major rewrites – appeared in 1980 as Alex Driving South.[21][22] In this gritty, naturalistic tale, Maillard first introduced the fictional town of Raysburg, West Virginia, where most of his novels have been set. The Knife in My Hands, influenced by American writer Jack Kerouac,[5][18] followed in 1981, and its sequel, Cutting Through, in 1982. Then, with a fifth book half-completed, Maillard was afflicted with writer's block.

From 1985 through 1988 Maillard applied his writing skills to designing university and adult education courses for the Open Learning Agency and, from 1986–1989, he workshopped his screenplay, Two Strand River, with Patricia Gruben's Praxis Film Development Workshop (Simon Fraser University).[9][23]

Maillard's fifth novel, Motet, published in 1989, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.[24] Reviewer David Homel assured readers that despite the novel's sixteenth-century Dutch choral mystery and Vancouver setting, "power and madness made in the USA is still at the heart of Maillard's creativity."[25]

Having taught as a sessional lecturer at both the University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University, Maillard was appointed in 1989 to a regular teaching position in UBC's Creative Writing Department, where he has taught every genre except stage writing.[5] He served as Advisory Editor of PRISM international for 10 years.


While at UBC, Maillard began what he considers his mature work – what has come to be known as the "Raysburg Series."[18][26][27][28][5] Called "a small masterpiece" by the Georgia Straight, Light in the Company of Women was published in 1993[29] and was runner-up for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize.[30] It was followed in 1995 by Hazard Zones, which was included on the Toronto Star's list of the best Canadian books for that year and was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.[31] His novel, Gloria (1999), was well received in Canada,[32] short-listed for the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction,[33] and brought Maillard national attention in the United States.[34] The Clarinet Polka was also well received in the United States, particularly by the Polish American community.[35][36][37][38][39] It was included in Booklist’s Editors’ Choice ’03, won the Polish American Historical Association's Creative Arts Prize, and came to the attention of scholars in Poland.[40][41][42]

Maillard also returned to his first love, poetry, and published Dementia Americana, which won the Gerald Lampert Award for the best first book of poetry published in Canada.[43] He became interested in the re-emergence of formal poetry in North America and commented about it in his oft-cited essay, "The New Formalism and the Return of Prosody."[44][45][46][47][48][49][50]


Maillard was one of 35 writers placed on the West Virginia Literary Map in 2004 and he was inducted that year into the Wheeling, West Virginia, Hall of Fame.[4]

In 2004, Maillard returned to the raw Bildungsroman[51] material first published in The Knife in My Hands and Cutting Through and rewrote and reshaped it into the Difficulty at the Beginning quartet, which appeared in four volumes between September 2005 and September 2006.[52] The Toronto The Globe and Mail selected Difficulty at the Beginning as one of the top books of 2006, calling it "a work of terrible beauty and grace, a masterpiece fit to contend with the best novels of the last century."[53][54] Reviewer Richard Helm describes the quartet as Maillard's "magnum opus and the keystone of a literary career that has flown largely under the Canadian radar." He characterizes Maillard as "probably the most famous Canadian novelist you've never heard of."[55]

In 2006, with eleven out of fourteen titles nominated for or winners of literary awards, Maillard won UBC’s Dorothy Somerset Award for excellence in the creative arts.[56]


In its 80th anniversary edition in 2015, the Quill & Quire listed Maillard as one of Canada's "notable Canlit talent" along with other American-born anti-Vietnam-War authors, Philip Marchand, Jack Todd, Judith Merrill, Mark Frutkin, and William Gibson.[57]

Maillard’s poem, "The Author Recalls His Adolescence," appears in the 2018 calendar published by the Historic Preservation Office of the State of West Virginia.[58]

In his most recent novel Twin Studies (2018) -- set in Vancouver, Medicine Hat, and Los Angeles -- Maillard returns to the topic of gender fluidity that he first explored in Two Strand River in 1976.[59] Steven Beattie, in the September 2018 issue of Quill & Quire, notes that Maillard's subject matter arises out of lived experience. "When the author began publishing, the language for describing gender-fluid approaches did not exist." As Maillard himself put it in his interview with Beattie, "You can't apply a term to yourself unless it is culturally available. I would now call myself non-binary." [60] In a Vancouver Sun review, Twin Studies is summarized as "that rare work: a story that grapples with difficult intellectual issues without ever abandoning the novelist's primary duty -- compelling narrative." [61]

Maillard’s first non-fiction book, Fatherless: A Memoir (2019), traces the life of the mysterious father he never knew as Maillard journeys back into what Greil Marcus has called “the weird old America.” [62]

Maillard’s papers are currently held by the University of British Columbia’s Rare Books and Special Collections.[11] A complete list of Maillard's publications can be found on his website.[63]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • 1976: Two Strand River (Press Porcepic) ISBN 0-88878-088-5
  • 1980: Alex Driving South (Dial) ISBN 0-8037-0196-9
  • 1981: The Knife in my Hands (General) ISBN 0-7737-0057-9
  • 1982: Cutting Through (Stoddart) ISBN 0-7737-2003-0
  • 1989: Motet (Random House) ISBN 0-394-22028-5
  • 1993: Light in the Company of Women (HarperCollins) ISBN 0-00-223894-2
  • 1994: Dementia Americana, poems (Ronsdale/Cacanadadada) ISBN 0-921870-28-0
  • 1995: Hazard Zones (Harper Perennial) ISBN 0-00-224397-0
  • 1999: Gloria (Harper Flamingo) ISBN 0-00-648175-2
  • 2002: The Clarinet Polka (Thomas Allen) ISBN 0-88762-100-7
  • 2005: Running (Brindle & Glass) ISBN 1-897142-06-4
  • 2006: Morgantown (Brindle & Glass) ISBN 1-897142-07-2
  • 2006: Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes (Brindle & Glass) ISBN 1-897142-08-0
    • 2011: Lyndon Johnson and the Majorettes (Brindle & Glass) ebook ASIN BOOSVXS3DY
  • 2006: Looking Good (Brindle & Glass) ISBN 1-897142-09-9
  • 2018: Twin Studies (Freehand Press) ISBN 1-988298-31-8
  • 2019: Fatherless (University of West Virginia Press) ISBN 978-1-949199-13-0


  • 1985: Vancouver Fiction. David Watmough, ed., Winlaw, B.C., (Polestar Press) ISBN 978-0-919591-05-9
  • 1986: Magic Realism and Canadian Literature: Essays and Stories, Proceedings of the Conference on Magic Realist Writing in Canada. University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University, May 1985; Peter and Ed Jewinski, eds. (University of Waterloo Press) ISBN 978-0-88898-065-6
  • 1999: New Expansive Poetry. R.S. Gwynn, ed., Ashland, Oregon, (Story Line Press) ISBN 978-1-885266-69-9
  • 2005: Wild Sweet Notes II: More Great Poetry From West Virginia. (Publishers Place) ISBN 978-0-9744785-2-4
  • 2008: The Best of Canadian Poetry in English, 2008. Stephanie Bolster and Molly Peacock, eds., (Tightrope Books) ISBN 978-0-9783351-7-5
  • 2008: Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came to Canada in the Vietnam War. Allan Briesmaster and Steven Michael Berzensky, eds., (Seraphim Editions) ISBN 978-0-9808879-1-4
  • 2014: Naked in Academe: Celebrating Fifty Years of Creative Writing at UBC. Rhea Tregebov, ed., (McClelland & Stewart) ISBN 978-0-7710-8926-8
  • 2018: Refuse: Canlit in Ruins. Hannah McGregor, Julie Rak & Erin Wunker, eds., (Book*hug) ISBN 978-1-7716643-1-8


  1. ^ Keith Maillard, UBC Creative Writing
  2. ^ Marilyn B. Young and Robert Buzzanco, eds., A Companion to the Vietnam War (John Wiley & Sons, 2002), 431.
  3. ^ Robert McGill, War is Here: The Vietnam War and Canadian Literature (McGill Queens, 2017), 198, 277.
  4. ^ a b Ohio County Public Library, "Wheeling Hall of Fame: Keith Maillard,"
  5. ^ a b c d e f William H. New, "Keith Maillard," Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada (University of Toronto Press, 2002), 700.
  6. ^ Keith Maillard, "Hot Springs, Arkansas," Southern Cultures, Volume 17, Number 3, Fall 2011.
  7. ^ Keith Maillard, "Richland," Numero Cinq Magazine, Vol.II No.3, March 2011.
  8. ^ Keith Maillard, "Kilroy: A Writer's Childhood," Numero Cinq Magazine, Vol. II No. 5, May 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Keith Maillard," Contemporary Authors Online, Detroit: Gale, 2012
  10. ^ "June Margaret nee O'Grady Skinner," The Vancouver Sun, 22 March 2014
  11. ^ a b Keith Maillard fonds, University of British Columbia
  12. ^ Anne Innis Dagg, Smitten by a Giraffe: My Life as a Citizen Scientist (McGill-Queens, 2016), 131.
  13. ^ Trevor Carolan, "25 Years of the Federation of BC Writers," BC Booklook, 12 December 2007
  14. ^ Ben Nuttall-Smith, "The History of the Federation of BC Writers Extended," 7 July 2016
  15. ^ Trevor Carolan, The Literary Storefront: The Glory Years 1978–1985 (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2015), 61, 101, 117, 121, 122, 126, 135-36, 227. ISBN 978-1-896949-52-9.
  16. ^ Nicholas Bradley, review of The Literary Storefront: The Glory Years 1878–1985, BC Studies, No. 191, Autumn 2016.
  17. ^ Margery Fee, ed. Silence Made Visible: Howard O’Hagan and Tay John (ECW Press, 1992), 21-38.
  18. ^ a b c Geoff Hancock, "Keith Maillard," The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, eds., William Toy and Eugene Benson (Oxford University Press, 1997, online 2006), 717-718.
  19. ^ Peter Hinchcliffe and Ed Jewinski, Magic Realism and Canadian Literature (Wilfred Laurier University, 1985), 82.
  20. ^ Stephen Slemon, "Magic Realism as Post Colonial Discourse," chapter in Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris, eds., Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community (Duke University Press, 1995), 409.
  21. ^ Clark Blaise, "Relearning Freedom," review of Alex Driving South, Canadian Literature 89 (Summer 1981): 131-133.
  22. ^ Kirkus Reviews Alex Driving South
  23. ^ Marsha Lederman, "Celebrated B.C. screenwriting program Praxis to fold," The Globe and Mail, 19 November 2013.
  24. ^ Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
  25. ^ David Homel, "Harmonics," Books in Canada, 1989
  26. ^ Meredith Sue Willis, "Keith Maillard: Five Novels of Raysburg, West Virginia," Appalachian Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3/4 (2004): 358-366.
  27. ^ Gordon Simmons, "Literature," e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia, 4 February 2014. Web. 1 May 2018
  28. ^ Gordon K. Neufeld, "Laugh, cry, and laugh again," Books in Canada, Vol. 31, Issue 9, December 2002.
  29. ^ Lorraine York, "Photographic Mixtures," Canadian Literature 141 (Summer 1994): 115-116.
  30. ^ Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize
  31. ^ Commonwealth Writers' Prize Shortlist
  32. ^ T. F. Rigelhof, Hooked on Canadian Books: The Good, the Better, and the Best Canadian Novels Since 1984 (Cormorant Books, 2010), 258.
  33. ^ Anne-Marie Tobin, "Matt Cohen, Keith Maillard among GG literary finalists," Canadian Press Newswire, 9 October 1999.
  34. ^ Jesse Browner, "Little Gloria Free at Last," The New York Times, 8 October 2000
  35. ^ Etelka Lehoczky, "Books in Brief: Fiction and Poetry," The New York Times, 4 May 2003
  36. ^ Smardz, Zofia (4 May 2003). "Banding Together". The Washington Post. Retrieved 1 May 2018.
  37. ^ David James Jackson, " 'Another Polka Rockin' Weekend': Polish American Polka Music, Identity, and Traditional Values," Polish American Studies, Vol. 71, No. 1 (Spring 2014), 47.
  38. ^ William Hal Gorby, "Saints, Sinners, and Socialists on the Southside: Polish Catholic Immigrant Workers, Politics, and Culture in Wheeling, West Virginia, 1890-1930," PhD thesis, University of West Virginia (2014), 2, 120, 123, 124, 128, 129, 351, 355-56.
  39. ^ T. J. Napierkowski, "The Clarinet Polka: Life, Literature, Music," Polish American Studies, Vol. 61, No. 2 (Autumn 2004): 9-24.
  40. ^ Booklist's Editors' Choice: Adult Books, 2003
  41. ^ Polish American Historical Association Creative Arts Prize
  42. ^ A. Branach-Kallas, "Folkloristic Hybrids: Diaspora Space in The Clarinet Polka by Keith Maillard," Przegląd Polonijny, Vol. 31, Issue 2 (2005):105-112.
  43. ^ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
  44. ^ Paul Scott Derrick, Lines of Thought: 1983–2015 (Universitat de Valencia, 2015), 143.
  45. ^ Gerry Cambridge, "The New Formalism," Jay Parini, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature (Oxford University Press, 2004), 251, 253-54.
  46. ^ Thomas Cable, "Connoisseurs of sound and the new formalism," Revue Francaise d'Etudes Americaines, No. 84 (March 2000):52-52
  47. ^ Keith Maillard, review of Rebel Angels, The Antigonish Review, 109 (1999).
  48. ^ Keith Maillard, "The New Formalism and the Return of Prosody," in R.S. Gwynn, New Expansive Poetry (1999): 52-71.
  49. ^ Catherine Addison, A Genealogy of the Verse Novel (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017), 424.
  50. ^ Gregory Dowling, "New Formalism: Dangerous Nostalgia or Angellic Rebellion?" Letteratura e letterature, 3 (2009): 1-20.
  51. ^ William H. New, A History of Canadian Literature (McGill-Queens, 2003), 229, 237.
  52. ^ Gordon Simmons, Review of Difficulty at the Beginning, Appalachian Heritage, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Fall 2007): 103-105.
  53. ^ Tom Sandborn, "The unbearable lightness of being American,"The Globe and Mail, 10 June 2006
  54. ^ Tom Sandborn, "The '60s on the installment plan," The Globe and Mail, 21 October 2006.
  55. ^ Richard Helm, "Maillard Canada's best unknown writer," Calgary Herald, 21 September 2006.
  56. ^ UBC This Week, 25 January 2007
  57. ^ "80 years of Q&Q: getting personal with Canlit personalities," Quill & Quire, 15 April 2015
  58. ^ "Historic Preservation Office offers calendar," Herald-Dispatch, 1 January 2018, Huntington, West Virginia .
  59. ^ "The Globe 100: Our favourite books of 2018," The Globe and Mail, 30 November 2018.
  60. ^ Steven W. Beattie, "Doubling down: As a writer and teacher, Keith Maillard prizes a multiplicity of approaches to literary craft," Quill & Quire, September 2018, 6-7.
  61. ^ Tom Sandborn, "Keith Maillard's Twin Studies displays a lyrical beauty," Vancouver Sun, 5 October 2018.
  62. ^ West Virginia University Press
  63. ^ Keith Maillard Publications List

External links[edit]