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Alden Nowlan: An Introduction

Alden Nowlan: An Introduction

| 28 min

This short documentary introduces us to Alden Nowlan, winner of Canada’s 1967 Governor General’s Award for poetry. His empathy for ordinary people was evident in his work as a poet, journalist, short-story writer, novelist and playwright. Nowlan’s writing is admired far beyond his native Maritimes, but he never forgot his roots, which he drew on for inspiration. This film, shot just before his death in 1983, records him reminiscing and reading from his work.

  • director
    Jon Pedersen
  • editing
    Jon Pedersen
  • producer
    Kent Martin
  • executive producer
    Barry Cowling
  • camera
    Kent Nason
  • sound
    Arthur McKay
  • sound editing
    Eric Emery
  • re-recording
    Hans Peter Strobl


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Ages 16 to 18

English Language Arts - CanLit
English Language Arts - Poetry
Family Studies/Home Economics - Adolescent Development
Health/Personal Development - Mental Health/Stress/Suicide

Warning (if any): Strong language warning; all sorts of swear words, slurs against people with disabilities

Brief “lesson launcher type” activity or a series of inquiry questions with a bit of context:

Interview-style documentary profiling poet Alden Nowlan with clips of him reading his poetry in between questions and answers.

How does the way Alden was treated as a child speak to how our expectations of people end up contributing to a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Do you agree with the statement that everything we write is essentially about ourselves? Can we ever truly understand the circumstances or feelings of others? Or is it true, as Alden says, that we are only explaining how we ourselves would react in a similar situation?

Are there really only two subjects of writing—love and death? Why or why not?

Alden uses the word “retarded” frequently to refer to how he was labelled as a child. We do not use that word anymore in school or social settings. Should the word be censored? Is there any value to including the word in the documentary?

Is the view that you should only go to the doctor if you are being carried there rooted in toxic masculinity? Has this idea changed over time or is it still prevalent among some groups of people?

Alden Nowlan: An Introduction
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