John Steffler - Biography

Born in Toronto in 1947, John Steffler grew up in a rural area outside of Thornhill, Ontario. Over the course of his youth, he tried his hand at a wide variety of jobs, including work as a shoemaker, substitute teacher and carpenter. Though Steffler’s roots are based in Ontario, he has lived much of his life in Newfoundland. Graduating from the University of Toronto in 1971 with a B.A. in English, Steffler went on to complete an M.A. in English at the University of Guelph in 1974, where he completed a thesis on the prophetic poetry of William Blake. Shortly thereafter, Steffler was hired on in the English Department of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since 1975, Steffler has lived and worked in Corner Brook—a point that is clearly reflected in his creative work. On the University of Toronto’s Canadian Poets site he acknowledges the importance Newfoundland plays in his work: “I’ve always been interested in the long-term interaction between people and the place they inhabit. This process is especially striking in Newfoundland where nature is rowdy and naked and people fit right in.” Known primarily as a poet, Steffler has published seven collections of poetry, including the influential wildness text The Grey Islands (1985). While the majority of Steffler’s creative output is poetry, his most critically acclaimed text is his revisionist historical novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright. Published in 1992, this postcolonial examination of the life of the Labrador explorer George Cartwright was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award and won the W.H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award. In 2002, Steffler published Helix: New and Selected Poems (2002), and the collection Lookout in 2010. From 2006 to 2008 Steffler served as  Canada's Poet Laureate.