Callaghan, Barry

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Nationality: Canadian. Born: Toronto, Ontario, 5 July 1937. Education: St. Michael's College School, Toronto; Assumption University, Windsor, Ontario, 1957–58; University of Toronto, B.A. 1961, M.A.1963. Family: Married Nina Ann Rabchuck in 1965 (separated 1969); one son. Career: Teaching fellow, University of Toronto, 1960–64. Since 1965 professor, York University, Toronto. Literary critic, "Umbrella" program, 1964–66, co-host, "The Public Eye," 1966–68, senior producer of current affairs, 1967–71, and war correspondent in Lebanon and Jordan, 1969–71, all Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Television; war correspondent in Rhodesia and South Africa, 1976, Villon Films. Co-owner, Villon Films, 1972–76. Critic of contemporary affairs, CTV network, 1976–82; host of dramatized novels series, OECA-TV, 1977. Literary editor, Toronto Telegram, 1966–71; since 1972 founder and publisher, Exile magazine, and since 1976 publisher, Exile Editions, both Toronto. Contributing editor, 1978–90, Toronto Life Magazine. Artist. Individual shows: Isaacs Gallery, Toronto, 1978; Carleton University Gallery, Ottawa, 1998. Awards: Prix Italia, 1977; National Magazine award, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988; National Magazine Award President's Medal, for excellence in journalism, 1982, 1985, 1988; CBC fiction award, 1985; Canadian Periodical Publishers award, for fiction, 1986; Ontario Arts Council award, 1987; White award, for journalism, 1988; Toronto Arts Foundation award, 1993; inaugural W.O. Mitchell award, 1998. LL. D.: State University of New York at Buffalo, 1999. Address: 20 Dale Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4W 1K4, Canada.



The Hogg Poems and Drawings. Don Mills, Ontario, General, 1978.

As Close As We Came. Toronto, Exile, 1982.

Stone Blind Love. Toronto, Exile, 1988.

Hogg: The Poems and Drawings. Toronto, McArthur and Company, 1998.


The Way the Angel Spreads Her Wings. Toronto, Lester and Orpen Dennys, 1989; Toronto, Little, Brown, 1995.

When Things Get Worst. Toronto, Little Brown, 1993.

Short Stories

The Black Queen Stories. Toronto, Lester and Orpen Dennys, and Princeton, New Jersey, Ontario Review Press, 1982.

A Kiss Is Still a Kiss. Toronto, McArthur and Company, 1997.


Barrelhouse Kings. Toronto, McArthur and Company, 1998.

Editor, Sights and Sounds: The Poetry of W.W.E. Ross. Toronto, Longuans, 1966.

Editor, The Selected Poems of Frank Prewett. Toronto, Exile, 1982.

Editor, Lords of Winter and of Love: A Book of Canadian Love Poems in English and French. Toronto, Exile, 1983.

Editor, Canadian Travellers in Italy. Toronto, Exile, 1989.

Editor, Exile: The First Fifteen Years, three volumes. Toronto, Exile, 1992.

Editor, with David Lampe, An Occasion of Sin: Stories by John Montague. Buffalo, New York, White Pine Press, 1992.

Editor, with Margaret Atwood, The Selected Poems of Gwendolyn MacEwen, two volumes Toronto, Exile, 1995.

Editor, This Ain't No Healing Town: Toronto Stories. Toronto, Exile, 1995.

Editor, The Annesley Drawings. Toronto, Exile, 1999.

Translator, Atlante by Robert Marteau. Toronto, Exile, 1979.

Translator, Treatise on White and Tincture by Robert Marteau. Toronto, Exile, 1979.

Translator, Interlude by Robert Marteau. Toronto, Exile, 1982.

Translator, Singing at the Whirlpool and Other Poems by Miodrag Pavlovic. Toronto, Exile, 1983.

Translator, A Voice Locked in Stone by Miodrag Pavlovic. Toronto, Exile, 1985.

Translator, Fragile Moments by Jacques Brault. Toronto, Exile, 1986.

Translator, Flowers of Ice: Selected Poems by Imants Ziedonis. Toronto, Exile, 1987; New York, Sheep Meadow Press, 1990.

Translator, with Ray Ellenwood, Wells of Light: Selected Poems by Fernand Ouellette. Toronto, Exile, 1989.

Translator, Eidolon, by Robert Marteau. Toronto, Exile, 1992.

*  *  *

Barry Callaghan has a diverse literary talent as poet, prose writer, and editor of Exile, one of the most inventive literary magazines of the age, perhaps the only one to rival the pioneer efforts of the 1920s. Behind such activity there lies a central thrust of energy. Callaghan is a big man who likes many things—traveling, gambling, listening to the blues, pushing the work of writers and artists he admires. He is like a Canadian Diaghilev.

Callaghan's own work gleams like the sun dancing on his native ice but also like an exotic reaction to seasonal claustrophobia. Like the character in The Waste Land, he "reads much of the night and goes south in the winter." But this is the surface texture. Beneath is a major theme, an odyssey in search of love and meaning that leads to strange places, as in his work in which a leper colony in Africa is illuminated with the self-denying light of sacrifice.

In The Hogg Poems the protagonist leaves "this land of eelgrass/and icedrifts and snow" to go to the many-layered city of Jerusalem, where he falls in love. The baroque rhetoric of "their days of"

   undress and incantation
   when love swung through the air
   like a great bell and he sought
   the shape of singularity

made the Hogg poems an astonishing debut. Except for a few poems by Margaret Atwood on love and survival, I cannot easily find anything like it in Canadian literature. One turns for comparison to sequences like Crow, by the English poet Ted Hughes, or the American poet Galway Kinnell's The Book of Nightmares.

Hurt by silence into a series of strange Bosch-like drawings, Hogg returns to his old stomping ground, Toronto's underworld. The basis of Callaghan's aesthetic is jazz, but his riffs are colored by a knowledge of literature, both biblical and modern. The blend of the blues and the Browningesque make "Judas Priest" and "John the Conqueroo" tours de force in two traditions. Other poems reach toward ritual, amulets, incantations, and hymns from the book of Hogg. As Close As We Came brings us into the frozen heart of eastern Europe. (People tend to forget that Russia and Canada are the two coldest and largest countries in the world.) Ice also begins this book, thawed a little by the presence of a Russian muse. Again, the poems are shaped like canticles of praise or invocations against evil, hesitating between the stolen embrace and the official silence:

   We rose tight-lipped
   as police in grey mutton hats thumbed
   our papers.

Around this time Callaghan began to translate the dense lyrics of the French alchemist-poet Robert Marteu from the Charente. Thus, his third volume, Stone Blind Love, is another poem cycle on the search for love, but through the unlikely substance of stone pictured in a surrealism as strange as Chagall:

   Stones, like horses, hunger for women
   and sprout wings
   They stamp their moon-faced hoofs.

—John Montague