Robert Bringhurst

Robert Bringhurst in 2006. Photo by Jason V. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Robert Bringhurst
Born October 16, 1946 (1946-10-16) (age 73)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Occupation poet, typographer, prose author
Nationality Canada Canadian

Robert Bringhurst (born October 16, 1946) is an American-born Canadian poet and typographer. He is the author of The Elements of Typographic Style, a reference book of typefaces, glyphs and the arrangement of type. He has also translated epic poetry from Haida mythology into English.


Bringhurst was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Bringhurst studied architecture, linguistics, and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and comparative literature and philosophy at the University of Utah.

He holds a B.A. from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.

Bringhurst has taught literature, art history and history of typography at several universities.

He lives on Quadra Island, near Campbell River, British Columbia (approximately 170 km northwest of Vancouver) with his spouse, poet and philosopher Jan Zwicky.


Both Bringhurst's poetry and his work on typography have been widely acclaimed, but his translations of the Haida legacy have raised an interesting controversy. On 1 side, his high-profile translations have led to a revival of the Haida culture and their language, which linguist M. Dale Kinkade had classified in 1991 as among the Native languages in Canada "likely to be lost unless strong efforts are made very quickly to perpetuate them".[1] On the other side, Bringhurst has been locally criticized by Haida communities and their leaders for failing to acknowledge and spend time inside the Haida culture(Citation needed). There is also resentment around the covers of his translations, which feature his name. Traditionally Haida stories, songs, crests, and other intellectual property were considered more sacred than physical property. It was customary for the violation of intellectual property rights to result in corporal punishment. Because of this controversy Bringhurst has been accused of academic exploitation and cultural appropriation.[2] These are often perceived by Haida communities as extensions of the colonial legacy.

Poetry Edit

The Guardian: "Reading Robert Bringhurst's poems is like breathing pure air. His poetry is rare but never rarefied. That he is the 'real thing' is not in doubt. The mystery is how it has taken the best part of a lifetime – he was born in 1946 and is seen as a literary giant in his native Canada – to come into focus in this country."[3]


Bringhurst has held fellowships from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

In 2005, Bringhurst won the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence, which recognizes British Columbia writers who have contributed to the development of literary excellence in the Province.[4]

His poetry was anthologized in the Penguin Book of Canadian Verse.



  • The Shipwright’s Log. Bloomington, IN: Kanchenjunga Press, 1972.
  • Cadastre. Bloomington, IN: Kanchenjunga Press, 1973.
  • Deuteronomy. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 1974.
  • Eight Objects. San Francisco: Kanchenjunga Press, 1975.
  • Bergschrund. Victoria, BC: Sono Nis Press, 1975.
  • Jacob Singing. San Francisco & Vancouver: Kanchenjunga Press, 1977.
  • The Stonecutter’s Horses. Vancouver: Standard Editions, 1979.
  • Tzuhalem’s Mountain: A sonata in three movements. Lantzville, BC: Oolichan Books, 1982.
  • The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected poems, 1972-82. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1982; Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1985.
  • Saraha. Lexington, KY: King Library Press, 1984.
  • Tending the Fire: An unparable of the relations of rabbits & dogs & old woman, &c.. Vancouver: Alcuin Society, 1985.
  • The Blue Roofs of Japan. Mission, BC: Barbarian Press, 1986.
  • Pieces of Map, Pieces of Music. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1986; Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 1987.
  • Shovels, Shoes and the Slow Rotation of Letters. Vancouver: Alcuin Society, 1986.
  • Conversations with a Toad. Vancouver & Shawinigan, QC: Éditions Lucie Lambert, 1987.
  • The Calling: Selected poems, 1970-1995. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995.
  • Elements (illustrated by Ulf Nilsen). Riverside, CT: Kuboaa Press, 1995.
  • The Book of Silences (with photos by Carolee Campbell). Sherman Oaks, CA: Ninja Press, 2001.
  • The Library Opens Its Eyes. Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser University Library, 2005.
  • New World Suite Number Three: A poem in four movements for three voices. New York: Center for Book Arts, 2005.
  • Wild Language. Nanaimo, BC: Institute for Coastal Research, 2006.
  • First Meditation on Time. Vernon, BC: Greenboathouse Press, 2008.
  • Selected Poems.Kentville, NS: Gaspereau Press, 2009; London: Cape, 2010; Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2011.
  • Waterfall One. Vernon, BC: Greenboathouse Press, 2015.


  • Ursa Major: A polyphonic masquw for singers and dancers. Kentville, NS: Gaspereau Press, 2003.

Short fictionEdit


  • Ocean/Paper/Stone: A catalogue of literary publishing in British Columbia.

Vancouver: William Hoffer, 1984.

  • The Black Canoe: Bill Reid and the spirit of Haida Gwaii (photographs by Ulli Steltzer). Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre / University of Washington Press, 1991.
  • Boats Is Saintlier than Captains: Thirteen ways of looking at morality, language, and design. New York: Edition Rhino, 1997.
  • A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The classical Haida mythtellers and their world. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1999; Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000; London: Folio Society, 2015.
  • A Short History of the Printed Word (with Warren Chappell). Hartley & Marks, 1999.
  • Thinking and Signing: Poetry and the practice of philosophy. Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2002.
  • Carving the Elements: A companion to "The fragments of Parmenides" (contributor). Berkeley, CA: Editions Koch, 2004.
  • The Elements of Typographic Style (3rd edition). Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, 2004; Seattle, WA, & Vancouver: Hartley & Marks, 2016.
  • Prosodies of Meaning: Literary form in Native North America: The Belcourt lecture. Winnipeg, MB: Voices of Rupert's Land, 2004.
  • The Tree of Meaning: Language, mind and ecology. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2006.
  • Everywhere Being is Dancing: Twenty pieces of thinking. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 2009.
  • What is Reading for? Rochester, NY: Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2011.
  • Typography (with Crispin & Jan Elsted). Mission, BC: Barbarian Press, 2014.
  • How It Goes: A convocation address. Mission, BC: Barbarian Press, 2017.


  • Ghandl of the Qayahl Llaanas, Nine Visits to the Mythworld (translated & edited). Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000; Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  • Skaay, Being in Being: The collected works of Skaay of the Qquuna Qiighawaay (edited & translated). Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2001; Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.


  • Visions: Contemporary art in Canada (edited with others). Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1983.
  • Bill Reid, Solitary Raven: Selected writings (editor & author of introduction). Douglas & McIntyre / Seattle, WA; University of Washington Press, 2000.
  • The Griffin Poetry Prize, 2014: A selection of the shortlist. Toronto: Anansi, 2014.
  • The California tradition in type design (edited by Robert Bringhurst & Peter Rutledge Koch). San Francisco: Book Club of California, 2015.
Poet Robert Bringhurst reads from Nine Visits to the Mythworld-0

Poet Robert Bringhurst reads from Nine Visits to the Mythworld-0

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

Audio / videoEdit

Robert Bringhurst Part 2

Robert Bringhurst Part 2

  • Robert Bringhust: Reads his own and others' poems. 1984.
  • Robert Bringhurst: A reading, October 23, 1985. Tucson, AZ: Tucson Poetry Center, 1985.

Except where noted, discographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See also Edit

References Edit


  1. M. Dale Kinkade, "The Decline of Native Languages in Canada. In: Endangered Languages (edited by R.H. Robins & E.M. Uhlenbeck. Berg Publishers, 1991. Print.
  2. Bradley, Nicholas R., 1967- Remembering Offence: Robert Bringhurst and the Ethical Challenge of Cultural Appropriation University of Toronto Quarterly - Volume 76, Number 3, Summer 2007, pp. 890-912
  3. Kate Kellaway, Selected Poems by Robert Bringhurst review, The Guardian, September 19, 2010. Web, Mar. 6, 2019.
  4. 2005 Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, BC Book Prizes. Web, Mar. 30, 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Search results = au:Robert Bringhurst, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Mar. 30, 2017.

External links Edit

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