An editor with THE CAPILANO REVIEW, periodics and Island, she also compiled and edited material for 2 documentaries for the BC Provincial Archives: Steveston Recollected (1975) and Opening Doors: Vancouver's East End (1979). She published many books during the next 2 decades, including Zócalo (1977), Selected Writing: Net Work (1980),
The last of these was also a love poem declaring both her coming out as a lesbian and her relationship to Betsy Warland. With her deepening feminism, she became one of the founding editors of Tessera, a Canadian journal of feminist theory and writing. In 1983, she helped to organize the first Women and Words conference in Vancouver, which brought together writers in both languages from across Canada. In 1988 she published Ana Historic, a novel involving a contemporary writer in the historical life she is researching, and Double Negative, a long poem written with Betsy Warland about their travels in Australia. In 1994, she and Warland published Two Women in a Birth, a collection of their collaborations, including Touch to My Tongue and Warland's Open Is Broken (1984), Double Negative, Reading and Writing Between the Lines, and Subject to Change.
Salvage (1991) collected poems of two decades that charted the many changes her life had gone through. Like so much of her work, these demonstrate how that open, searching poetics first discovered with the TISH group allowed her to construct a number of serial poems and novels in which she could explore her own life as itself an organic form, creating something both deeply autobiographical and carefully inscribed within each text as text. Ghost Works (1993) collected three important out-of-print works, Zócalo, Month of the Hungry Ghosts, and How Hug a Stone. This Tremor Love Is (2001) is a sequence of love poems covering 25 years, with the final poem dedicated to her new partner, Bridget Mackenzie.
Taken (1996), her second novel, offers its narrator's exploration of her mother's life in wartime Australia with her husband gone to fight, even as she experiences the absence of her own lover during the Gulf War. And although presented as a long prose poem, The Given (2008) reads as a similar kind of narrative, in which a mother's death leads the narrator into complex memories of life in 1950s Vancouver. As with so many of her works, Marlatt draws on what are clearly personal memories while weaving them into a complexly rendered textuality that complicates any simple autobiographical reading. Much of the theorizing behind such a continuing poetics can be found in the essays collected in Readings from the Labyrinth (1998).
Over a long career, Daphne Marlatt has pursued a poetics of openness to the perceptual world that allowed for continual growth and exploration; she has become a major figure in Canadian feminist and lesbian writing, and with her teaching and mentoring has influenced many younger writers seeking a way of writing that evades the traps of simple lyric poetry. In her poetry, fiction, and theoretical writing, she has demonstrated a willingness to accept risk that offers the possibility of freedom from calcified tradition to any reader willing to share that risk.
In recognition of her life in writing, Marlatt was made a member of the ORDER OF CANADA in 2006. Her play The Gull, the first Canadian play staged in the ancient, ritualized tradition of Japanese Noh, won the prestigious 2008 Uchimura Naoya Prize. The Given won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2009.
Author DOUGLAS BARBOUR
George Bowering, "Given This Body: An Interview with Daphne Marlatt," Open Letter 4:3 (Spring 1978); Douglas BARBOUR, Daphne Marlatt and Her Works (1992); Smaro Kamboureli, On the Edge of Genre (1991); Stan Dragland, The Bees of the Invisible (1991); Manina Jones, That Art of Difference (1993); Frank Davey, Canadian Literary Power (1994); Pamela Banting, Body Inc. (1995); Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy, Writing in Our Time (2005); Pauline Butling and Susan Rudy, "On Salvaging: A conversation with Daphne Marlatt," Poets Talk: Conversations with Robert Kroetsch, Daphne Marlatt, Erin Mouré, Dionne Brand, Marie Annharte Baker, Jeff Derksen, and Fred Wah (2005).
Links to Other Sites
A biography of feminist writer Daphne Marlatt from athabascau.ca.
A brief profile and a list of works by writer Daphne Marlatt. From Canadian Women Poets.