Renowned Island poet Patrick Lane dies at 79

Award-winning poet and novelist Patrick Lane has died.

Harbour Publishing, which published several of Lane’s collections, said he died Thursday after a long illness. He was 79.

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Yvonne Blomer, Victoria’s poet laureate from 2015 to 2018, said Lane’s death is huge loss to Canadian letters.

Blomer said she met Lane 30 years ago when she was a first-year creative-writing student at the University of Victoria. It was the beginning of a long and supportive relationship, in which she always enjoyed his friendship and sense of humour.

“Patrick has been mentor to a great many Canadian poets over the years,” she said. “He will be missed.”

Lane’s accolades include the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for Poems New and Selected, the Canadian Authors Association Award, and three National Magazine Awards.

There is a Season, which was published in 2005 and detailed Lane’s time in rehabilitation dealing with alcoholism, won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence and the B.C. Award for Canadian Nonfiction.

In 2014, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada in honour of his vast body of work. He also received several honorary doctorates, including ones from UVic, where he taught, and Vancouver Island University.

Published in 2011, The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane spanned a career that extends back to 1962. The book includes more than 400 poems.

Collected Poems was a “doorstop,” Lane joked in 2011 in an interview with Times Colonist writer Adrian Chamberlain.

Lane, who lived with his wife, the poet Lorna Crozier, on the Saanich Peninsula, crafted a writing career from his working-class roots. He was born March 26, 1939, near Nelson, and grew up in the B.C. Interior, working blue-collar jobs such as driving truck and working in a sawmill.

During the 1960s he dealt with several family tragedies. His brother, also a poet, died of a brain hemorrhage. In 1968, his father was shot and killed by a man angered when his logging equipment was repossessed.

But Lane maintained he had always aspired to be an artist. He once said he turned to poetry and writing only because he couldn’t afford to be a painter.

During the 1970s he earned a reputation as a hard-drinking and hyper-masculine writer willing to delve into life’s darker and grittier sides.

In the 2011 interview with the Times Colonist, Lane expressed some resentment about that reputation, saying it represented only part of his life and personality.

He stopped drinking in 2000. Despite personal fears that alcohol was a necessary catalyst for his writing, Lane discovered the opposite was true and even said he completed his most important works after sobriety.

The one thing he said never changed for him was that special “sweetness” experienced at the completion of a poem.

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