Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey, poet, short story writer, novelist (born at Buchans, NL 18 November 1965). Following a childhood in Buchans, Nfld, and Wabush, Labrador, Michael Crummey graduated from MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY OF NEWFOUNDLAND in 1987 with a BA in English. He attended graduate school at QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY, where he earned an MA (1988), and began but later withdrew from the PhD program. Crummey travelled and worked in a number of countries before settling down to write and live in St John's, Nfld.

Crummey's first taste of success as a professional writer came in 1994 when he won the inaugural BRONWEN WALLACE AWARD for Poetry for work that had appeared in several anthologies. His first collection of poems, Arguments with Gravity, won the Writer's Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador Literary Award for Poetry in 1996. His genre-defying Hard Light was published in 1998 and combines poetry with retellings of stories told to Crummey primarily by his father, Arthur. Hard Light is representative of the thematic concerns that define much of Crummey's work: the preservation in print of the hard labour, harsh elements, and ironic humour that define the disappearing rural Newfoundland existence.

Crummey went on to publish two more collections of poetry, Emergency Roadside Assistance (2001) and Salvage (2002), and though the setting moves from place to place, Crummey's preoccupation with loss - both personal and communal - remains evident; especially in the warning he gives readers on the first page of Salvage: "Poems about Loss/ Next 100 Pages."

Though a respected and successful poet, Crummey has garnered more praise for his prose. His first published short story was a runner up for the Prism International Short Fiction Contest in 1994. His collection of short stories Flesh and Blood was released in 1998 (expanded and re-released in 2003), the same year he was nominated for the Journey Prize. Flesh and Blood revolves around the residents of the small Newfoundland mining town of Black Rock (a thinly veiled Buchans) as they try to establish themselves in an ever-changing world.

Crummey's most celebrated work is his novel River Thieves, published in 2001. River Thieves won the Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing, the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize, and the Atlantic Independent Booksellers' Choice Award. It was also shortlisted for many awards, including the GILLER PRIZE, the Commonwealth Prize, and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The novel focuses on the events surrounding the capture of DEMASDUWIT, one of the last Beothuk. Crummey's themes of loss and change are prevalent in this novel, as the European settlers try desperately to connect to the land through its native inhabitants, only to realize that such a connection is ultimately impossible.

With photojournalist Greg Locke, Crummey published Newfoundland: Journey Into a Lost Nation in 2004, a combination of prose and pictures that records Newfoundlanders dealing with resettlement, a struggling economy, and the collapse of the fishery. Though at times nostalgic and nationalistic, this text demonstrates that "the Newfoundland identity" is not rooted in the past, but can be found in the determined people who survive such radical change.

Crummey's second novel, The Wreckage, was published in 2005. It is a love story focusing on Newfoundlanders' involvement in the SECOND WORLD WAR. Filled with loss, fear and the need for human connection, the novel explores the perils of faith and belief as it ranges from the outports of Newfoundland to the POW camps of southeast Asia.

Galore (2009), Crummey's third novel, also met considerable Canadian and international acclaim upon its publication. Shortlisted for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD for Fiction, and winner of the CANADIAN AUTHORS ASSOCIATION Award for Fiction (2010), the novel spans 200 years in the life of a Newfoundland outport and its feuding families, years that see the development and eventual decline of the cod fishery. Crummey's magic-realist treatment of his subject matter draws upon Newfoundland's folk traditions and deeply felt connections to place.

Michael Crummey has served as writer in residence and taught creative writing at institutions across Canada. He was honoured with the Writer's Trust of Canada Timothy FINDLEY AWARD in 2007, recognizing the entirety of his body of work.