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Andrew Suknaski (1942–2012)

20120509aasuknaskiobit-404wUCC-SPC mourns loss of Nation Builder

Andrew (Andy) Suknaski (b. 1942 – d. 03 May 2012)

UCC-SPC regrets to report the death of Nation Builder (2000) Andrew Suknaski at Moose Jaw on May 3, 2012. While Suknaski was most famous for Wood Mountain Poems, he first came to fame in Al Purdy's anthology of new writers, Storm Warning.

Andy was a strong believer in the small press movement, and early published such writers as Gary Hyland, Sid Marty and Glen Sorestad; he also influenced a whole generation of prairie writers with his own books of gritty, realistic poetry. Many writers owe a debt to him.


One of the most acclaimed Canadian poets of the second half of the 20th century, and a visual artist Andrew Suknaski was born in 1942 on a homestead near Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan in July 1942 to Julia (Karasinski) and Andrew Suknaski, Sr. He was educated at the Kootenay School of Art, the University of Victoria, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts School of Art and Design and Simon Fraser University. He has worked at a variety of jobs from farmhand to night watchman to managing a portable one-man publishing venture that specialized in limited edition mail-outs.

Suknaski's narrative style was the dominant influence on the Canadian Prairie poetry in the 1970s and 1980s. His published works include The Ghosts Call you Poor (1978), East of Myloona (1979), In the Name of Narid (1981), The Land They Gave Away (1982) Silk Trail (1985). His works are included in the anthologies Canadian Literature in the 70s and The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse in English.

In 1979, Suknaski won the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award for The Ghosts You Call Poor. He has been the subject of a great amount of critical attention, including articles by Jars Balan, "Voices from the Canadian Steppes: Ukrainian Elements in Andrew Suknaski's Poetry." Studia Ucrainica (1988), Dawn Morgan's, "Andrew Suknaski's 'Wood mountain time' and the chronotope of multiculturalism." Mosaic (1996) and Tatiana Nazarenko's "Ukrainian-Canadian visual poetry: traditions and innovations." Canadian Ethnic Studies (1996).

In 1978, the National Film Board of Canada made a documentary film on Andrew Suknaski entitled Wood Mountain Poems. In it, Suknaski talks about his part of the world, about its multicultural background, its Indian heritage, and the customs and stories of its different ethnic groups. In June of 2000, the BRAVO! channel aired a 30-minute interview with Suknaski.

In 2006 Wood Mountain Poems, was republished in a 30th Anniversary edition by Hagios Press. A launch at the Festival of Words in Moose Jaw attracted a large audience. Suknaski’s Polish and Ukrainian heritage, his concern for First Nations and the people and place featured strongly in his realist poetry and his work continues to influence poets and writers and is studied across Canada.

Suknaski has stated in an interview with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix that, "My central concern is documenting the West, where people come from, who they are in terms of myth and spiritual belief." In his poetry, Suknaski is caught up in the past, in the loneliness of the vast plains, and in making that experience live on to become a part of the present as well.

By bringing his interpretation of the Ukrainian Canadian experience to a larger public through the ancient Ukrainian medium of poetry, Andrew Suknaski has shown himself to be a true Nation Builder.

Arrangements for Andrew Suknaski’s Memorial are pending, but are expected to take place in early June in Moose Jaw.

Friends of Andrew Suknaski and the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild have established an Andrew Suknaski Memorial Fund to assist in paying for the costs of holding a Memorial Celebration for him.

After expenses have been covered for the memorial, a consensus from donors will be sought for any remaining funds for ways in which to continue to honour him.

Please make donations to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild. Payments may be made by cheque (mailed to Box 3986, Regina, SK, S4P 3R9) or dropped off or couriered to our office (1150  8th Avenue, Regina), or by PayPal (

May his Memory be Eternal!

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