Portraits of Tragedy

A remarkable debut collection

From Susanna Moodie and Charles G. D. Roberts, Pauline Johnson and Lucy Maud Montgomery, to Margaret Atwood and George Bowering, Joy Kogawa and Michael Ondaatje — and along with such writers as Michael Crummey and Katherena Vermette — there has been a strong and unique feature of Canadian ­literature: authors working in poetry and in prose, first as accomplished poets, then as sophisticated novelists and short story writers. It seems only Thomas King and Robert Kroetsch have reversed the pattern, becoming poets after they established careers as novelists.

To the list of writers who successfully blur the line between poetry and prose, it’s time to add the name of Souvankham Thammavongsa. Born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and raised and educated in Toronto, this forty-two-year-old poet has published four acclaimed volumes. Now a collection of fourteen stories, How to Pronounce...