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Currie, Robert (1937–)

Robert Currie was born on September 21, 1937 in Lloydminster to Duncan and Jean Currie. As a youth growing up in Moose Jaw, he was published in The Canadian Boy (a United Church paper), but decided to pursue a career in pharmacy after graduation. While attending the College of Pharmacy at Saskatoon, he wrote much of the college paper and was influenced in his decision to intern at Saskatoon’s University Hospital partly by the opportunity to write for The Hospital Pharmacist . After accepting a sessional lecturer position Currie discovered he loved teaching, but decided to teach a subject he loved and returned to the University of Saskatchewan, where he earned a BA in 1964, an Honours English diploma in 1965, and a BEd in 1966. Upon graduating in 1966 he returned to Moose Jaw, where he began a thirty-year career as an English teacher.

In 1965 Currie purchased his first book of poetry, and this sparked his lifelong passion for the medium. In 1969, he was editing and publishing Salt, a small magazine that published numerous writers long before their first books appeared. His own first published volume, Quarterback #1 (Montreal’s Delta Press), consisted of only six poems, but was quickly followed by Sawdust and Dirt (1973), The Halls of Elsinore (1973), and Moving Out (1975). Beginning in 1972, Currie spent five summers teaching and studying at Fort San, where he was inspired by Ken Mitchell, Anne Szumigalski, Robert Kroetsch, Eli Mandel, and Rudy Wiebe. In 1973 he was elected chairman of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild; and two years later he, Gary Hyland, Barbara Sapergia, and Geoffrey Ursell founded Coteau Books.

Three times during his teaching career Currie took unpaid leaves-of-absence to write full time; and on each occasion, books and awards followed. He retired from teaching in 1996 and now writes full time. Over the years, he has received three first- place awards (twice for poetry, once for children’s Literature) and two second-place awards from the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, as well as a third prize for poetry in the CBC National Literary Awards (1980). Together with Eli Mandel, Ken Mitchell, W.O. MITCHELL, John Newlove, SINCLAIR ROSS, and Anne Szumigalski, he was honoured with a Founder’s Award from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild in 1984. Examples of publications by Currie are Diving into Fire (1977), Yarrow (1980), Night Games (1983), Learning on the Job (1986), Klondike Fever (1992), Things You Don’t Forget (1999), and his first novel Teaching Mr. Cutler (2002). In 2006, he was named the province’s third Poet Laureate.

Christian Thompson

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