by George J. Dance


David McFadden. Courtesy Talonbooks.

David McFadden
Born October 11, 1940
Hamilton, Ontario
Died June 6, 2018
Occupation novelist, travel writer
Nationality Canada Canadian
Education high school
Notable work(s)

The Great Canadian Sonnet (1970)

Why are You so Sad? (2007)

David William McFadden (October 11, 1940 - June 6, 2018) was a Canadian poet, and fiction and travel writer.


McFadden was born and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario.[1]

He began writing poetry as a teenager, and was publishing in literary magazines (and corresponding with Jack Kerouac) while still in high school.[1]

He began working for the Hamilton Spectator as a proofreader, eventually becoming a reporter.[2] During the same time he published his own literary magazine, Mountain, and wrote several volumes of poetry plus his first novel, The Great Canadian Sonnet.[1] In 1976 he quit the newspaper to work as a freelance writer and editor.[2]

He was writer in residence at Simon Fraser University in 1979, and instructor in writing at David Thompson University Centre from 1979 to 1982.[2]

McFadden also served on the editorial board of Coach House Press, and as a contributing editor for SwiftCurrent and Canadian Art Magazine. He wrote a regular monthly column for Quill and Quire for 2 years, and another for Hamilton This Month for 3 years).[1]

In 2012, McFadden was diagnosed with logopenic variant primary progressive aphasia, a type of Alzheimer’s disease that affects a person’s memory of words. Shortly afterward he became an early participant in a study of the effects of aerobic exercise on people already affected by dementia.[3]

His ongoing illness affected his ability to speak, remember words and understand complex ideas. In 2014, he wrote in Toronto Life, “So far, I’m still able to write. I do it slowly, making sure that I’ve done it well. I think about it, and how I would read it, and finally I get it to where it’s supposed to be.” His final book of poetry, Abnormal Brain Sonnets, was published in 2015.[4]

He died June 6, 2018, of complications from his illness.[4]


The Canadian Encyclopedia says of McFadden's work: "Through irony, self-parody and mock ingenuousness, McFadden's writing illuminates conflicts between the ordinary citizen and an increasingly surreal and commercial society. His most noteworthy books are the mock picaresque novel A Trip Around Lake Erie (1980) and selected poems, My Body was Eaten by Dogs (1981).[2]

Wikipedia says that "McFadden's poetry critiques the commercialism and shallowness of modern society. His work, with its overt humour, poignant reflections on contemporary urban life, and interest in the mistakes of the imagination, reveals an affinity with Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery and the New York School of the 1950s, as well as the Beat writers of the 1960s--Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti most obviously. His work, however, remains distinctly Canadian in subject matter, setting and personality."[5]

His book of 100 Baudelaire-inspired prose poems, Gypsy Guitar, was called "Everyone's favourite book of poems" by George Bowering.


His collections Gypsy Guitar and The Art of Darkness were nominated for the Governor General's Award for English language poetry. His 2007 selected poems, Why are You so Sad?, were shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Poetry Prize.[6]



  • The Poem Poem. Kitchener, ON: Weed/Flower Press, 1967.
  • Letters from the Earth to the Earth. Toronto: Coach House, 1968.
  • Poems Worth Knowing. Toronto: Coach House, 1971.
  • Intense Pleasure. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1972.
  • The Ova Yogas. Toronto: Weed/Flower Press, 1972.
  • The Poet's Progress. Toronto: Coach House, 1977.
  • A Knight in Dried Plums. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1975.
  • The Saladmaker. Montreal: Cross Country Press, 1977.
  • I Don't Know. Montreal: Vehicule Press, 1978.
  • On the Road Again. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1978.
  • A New Romance. Montreal: Cross Country Press, 1979.
  • My Body Was Eaten By Dogs: Selected poems of David McFadden (edited by George Bowering). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1981.
  • Country of the Open Heart. Edmonton, AB: Longspoon Press, 1982.
  • Three Stories and Ten Poems. Toronto: Prototype, 1982. (fiction and poetry)
  • A Pair of Baby Lambs. Toronto: Front Press, 1983
  • The Art of Darkness. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984.
  • The Poetry of Our Age. Toronto: Letters, 1986.
  • Gypsy Guitar: One Hundred Poems of Romance and Betrayal. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1987.
  • Anonymity Suite. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1992.
  • There'll Be Another. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1995.
  • Five Star Planet. Vancouver: TalonBooks, 2002
  • Cow Swims Lake Ontario. Toronto: BookThug Press, 2003.
  • Why Are You So Sad? Selected poems. Toronto: Insomniac Press, 2007.[7]
  • Be Calm, Honey: 129 sonnets. Toronto: Mansfield Press, 2008.
  • Why Are You So Long & Sweet? Collected long poems. London, ON: Insomnia Press, 2010.[7]


  • The Great Canadian Sonnet (illustrated by Greg Curnoe). Toronto: Coach House, 1970.
    • revised, Toronto : Coach House, 2001.
  • Canadian Sunset. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press, 1986.

Short fictionEdit

  • Animal Spirits: Stories to live by (illustrated by Greg Curnoe). Toronto: Coach House Press, 1983.


  • A Trip Around Lake Huron. Toronto: Coach House, 1980.
  • A Trip Around Lake Erie. Toronto: Coach House, 1980.[7]
  • A Trip Around Lake Ontario. Toronto: Coach House, 1988.
  • An Innocent in Ireland: Curious rambles and singular encounters. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995.
  • Great Lakes Suite. Vancouver: TalonBooks, 1997. (Includes A Trip around Lake Erie, A Trip around Lake Huron, & A Trip around Lake Ontario in 1 volume)
  • An Innocent in Scotland. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1999.
  • An Innocent in Newfoundland. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.
  • An Innocent in Cuba: Further curious rambles and singular encounters. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2005.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the University of Toronto.[8]

Audio / videoEdit

Poet David W

Poet David W. McFadden reads from What's the Score?

  • Selected Lakes (cassette). Toronto: Coach House / Music Gallery Talking Books, 1990.[9]

See alsoEdit



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "David McFadden: Biography," Canadian Poetry Online,, Web, June 10, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Frank Davey, "McFadden, David William," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1988), 1264-1265.
  3. Life with dementia: a poet loses his words, University Health Network, Web, Jan. 8, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Diane Peters, "Poet David McFadden, 77, was a master of magical yet accessible verse," Globe & Mail, June 22, 2018. Web, Apr. 7, 2019.
  5. "David McFadden," Wikipedia, Web, June 10, 2011.
  6. Vit Wagner, "Man of verse finds spotlight a curse," Toronto Star, May 15, 2008, Web, June 10, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Search results - au:David McFadden, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Dec. 9, 2014,
  8. "David McFadden: Publications," Canadian Poetry Online,, Web, June 10, 2011.
  9. Search results = au:David McFadden, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, May 10, 2017.

External links Edit

  • Canadian Poetry Online: David McFadden - Biography & 6 poems (Eight Medical Students, Xavier Simpatico and His Old Church, Havana All Night Long, One-Legged Man in Shorts, Dreamland Cuba, The Death of Greg Curnoe, Nuclear Physicist Seeks New Home)
Audio / video
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