Gordon Rodgers (1952-)

Gordon Rodgers was born in Gander, and the International Airport town has sometimes been both setting and subject in his poetry and fiction. After completing degrees in Psychology and Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland, he worked as a Research Assistant, Psychologist, and University Lecturer.

Gordon Rodgers Gordon Rodgers, n.d.
Rodgers’ first book of poetry, Floating Houses (1984), was in the forefront of Newfoundland writing in the early 1980s.

Photographer unknown. Reproduced by permission of Gordon Rodgers. ©2006.
Larger Version (46 kb)

Rodgers's first poems were published in 1978, and in 1979 he was awarded First Prize for the Best Original Poem in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition. In 1981, he received a Master of Fine Arts (Creative Writing) from the University of British Columbia where he was recipient of the Helen Badenoch Scholarship.

Floating Houses (1984), Rodgers's first book of poetry, was declared to be “in the very forefront of Newfoundland writing” (The Newfoundland Quarterly). It immediately drew comparisons to David Blackwood's artwork for similar thematic concerns and for imagery that is “sparse, brooding and agitated” (The Evening Telegram). His poems center on outport life that gradually disappeared during the resettlement process in post-confederation Newfoundland. Here, Rodgers, like many other Newfoundland poets, interprets the history of resettlement. Percy Janes, one of Rodgers's early mentors, noted the great variety of poems present in this volume and remarked that beyond Rodgers's empathy for and vision of Newfoundland, there is also a grainy and stubborn sense of humour.

Two years later The Newfoundland Quarterly wrote that Rodgers's second book of poetry, The Pyrate Latitudes (1986), was “confirmation . . . that Newfoundland poetry [had] truly come of age.” In this book, Rodgers moves from the more historical and political concerns of his first collection to explorations more personal, psychological and technical. He plays with language and form—in one section, for example, the last line of one poem becomes the title of the next, a collective poem forming out of individual ones. This personal exploration is not, however, totally separable from the island and its experiences, as evidenced in the pirate imagery of the title, and while the connections of pirate history to Newfoundland history are well-known, Rodgers adds a third variable for the reader's consideration when he writes: “professing/no other course/in life but life and its living/all poets are pyrates.”

Between these two volumes of poetry came The Phoenix: A Novella (1985), Rodgers's first attempt at longer fiction. In this coming-of-age story traumatic events forever erase the careless days of childhood for thirteen year old Michael. He chooses to trespass police boundaries and becomes a witness to the aftermath of an early morning crash of a Czechoslovakian airliner at Gander International Airport. The Atlantic Provinces Book Review praised the novella for its “bareness and simplicity” and for “the author's delight in the beauty of the world around us . . . convey(ed) in precise and vivid detail.” The Evening Telegram praised Rodgers for tackling “a thematically difficult story and mak(ing) it work.” Ironically, the novella was published in November of 1985, less than a month before a chartered U.S. Air Force Arrow aircraft crashed at Gander, in December.

Rodgers's first novel, A Settlement of Memory (1999), tells the story of Tom Vincent—storekeeper, book lover, telegrapher, fisherman, farmer, healer, union organizer, politician and visionary. Loosely based on the life and times of William Coaker, founder of the Fisherman's Protective Union, the novel traces the struggle for independence for fisherman and their families during the unionization movement, leading Stan Dragland to observe it as “a wonderful tale of the inexorable drive to freedom in the teeth of vested interest” (1999). A story of greed, oppression, love, and human frailty, it is “a novel that transforms Newfoundland's history from about 1870 to 1920 into an epic form of myth” (Canadian Literature).

His writing has appeared in literary journals and magazines in Newfoundland and Canada (CVII; Newfoundland Quarterly; Prism international; TickleAce) and has often been anthologized (The March Hare Anthology; Coastlines: The Poetry of Atlantic Canada; Wild on the Crest: Sea Poems of Newfoundland and Labrador).

Rodgers practices Clinical Psychology part-time. He is writing a second novel.

“The Wild Ragged Edge”

Common seamen
hit and run raiders
in their heads
images stacked
like guns in gun racks
audacity and defiance
for the crisis-proofing
for witnesses to the rising up
and the rising up again
of brothers sisters
daring to carouse
through eternity
in rum strength
free spirit courage
breaking the bread
equal shares
of wine and all pleasures
all pains
disputes
only on the rough shores

In this company
by consent
there must be
peace aboard this ship

“Mummer”

See by rags and hidden face,
I am the mummer—name me.

Christmastime, work ceases,
I am released; recreate
Adam’s role—name me.

Fear my mischief, my deceit,
my free urge until named.
For sure you know me well.

Call my name—restore me.
Restore the order—Name me.

Article by Aaron Peach. © 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site.

Revised December, 2007.

Bibliography


Partnered Projects The Arts - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home