New Brunswick Author Portal

Alden  Nowlan
Categories: Male AuthorsAnglophone AuthorsPoetsNovelistsDramatistsAuthors of Non-FictionMiramichi River

photo of author
Source: Kent Nason, NFB.


Alden Nowlan was born at Windsor, N.S., on 25 January 1933 and died in Fredericton, N.B., on 27 June 1983. Largely self-educated, Nowlan was a former newspaperman whose many collections of poetry grew steadily in their power and intensity. Primary among them are Bread, Wine and Salt (1967, Governor General's Award), Playing the Jesus Game (1970) and Between Tears and Laughter (1971), all of them rich in regional sensibility and in affection for ordinary people but connected by Nowlan's intelligence, temperament and reading to a literary world far beyond folk culture. He was also a playwright, a story writer and, with Various Persons Named Kevin O'Brien (1973), a novelist; several other Nowlan books appeared posthumously. He was often at the centre of the literary community in Fredericton and Atlantic Canada generally; through the vivid example of his craftsmanship; through his work at University of New Brunswick, where he became writer-in-residence in 1969; and through his individualistic personality.

The Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in English Language Literary Arts was created in his honour.

How has New Brunswick influenced your work?

Gregory M. Cook: How would you describe these Maritime people: what kind of people are they?

Alden Nowlan: Well, of course, people are affected by the place in which they live—societies of people as well as individuals. Obviously, the fish merchants in St. John’s, for example, are a different kind of people from the pulp cutters in Hants County, Nova Scotia. And both groups have some distinctly Maritime outlooks that differentiate them from people in Nebraska or California or Quebec…But, Lord, I don’t write about Maritime people in capital letters, as if they were some special species. I have certain feelings, certain responses—I could well have these same feelings and responses if I lived in Montreal, but I’d write them in a different way, simply because I’d have different experiences and see different things if I lived in Montreal.

Literary Prizes

Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal - 1979
Canadian Authors Association Silver Medal - 1978
Honorary Doctorate of Letters, Dalhousie University - 1976
Honorary Doctorate of Letters, University of New Brunswick - 1971
President’s Medal, University of Western Ontario - 1970
Governor General’s Literary Awards - 1967 In recognition of: Bread, Wine and Salt
Guggenheim Fellowship - 1967

Featured Publication

Alden Nowlan : Selected Poems


Old mare whose eyes
are like cracked marbles,
drools blood in her mash,
shivers in her jute blanket.

My father hates weakness worse than hail;
in the morning
without haste
he will shoot her in the ear, once,
shovel her under in the north pasture.

leaving the stables,
he stands his lantern on an over-turned water pail,
cursing her for a bad bargain,
and spreads his coat
carefully over her sick shoulders.

Find this author in the New Brunswick public libraries catalogue.


  • Cook, Gregory, ed. Alden Nowlan: Essays on his Works. Toronto: Guernica, 2006.
  • Fetherling, Douglas. The Canadian Encyclopedia/The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada: