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Literary Collections Essays

Work to Be Done

Selected Essays and Reviews

by (author) Bruce Whiteman

Initial publish date
Mar 2024
Essays, Poetry, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
    List Price

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Essays and critical writing drawn from a wide-ranging fifty-year career in letters

Drawn from a body of essays and reviews written over the course of nearly fifty years, Work to Be Done showcases both the depth and breadth of Bruce Whiteman’s critical work. Widely published across Canada and the United States, Whiteman is an accomplished poet, translator, and scholar, and his broad interests have never been limited to any one subject area. He moves between classical and contemporary literature, and music, book and literary history, shifting seamlessly from the close reading of a poem to the consideration of the life and oeuvre of an artist.

In these thirty-four selected essays, Whiteman demonstrates the cohesion of his varied body of work, which ranges from essays on such poets as Sappho, Goethe, Samuel Beckett, P.K. Page, Leonard Cohen and Philip Larkin, to insightful readings of the biographers and translators of such great writers as Ezra Pound and Marcel Proust. Work to Be Done is an erudite and eclectic tour of Whiteman’s finest critical investigations.


About the author

Bruce Whiteman is a Canadian poet and writer living in Los Angeles. He is the author of many books of poetry, including Visible Stars: New and Selected Poems (1995), Tristia, and XXIV Love Poems (2002). He regularly writes reviews for Canadian and American journals, and his scholarly books include Lasting Impressions: A Short History of English Publishing in Quebec (1994) and J.E.H. Macdonald (1995).

Bruce Whiteman's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Work to Be Done

"Whiteman has been writing about poetry both internationally and nationally (including for the Star) for 50 years; this collection brings together a selection from the now Peterborough, Ont., resident, ranging from North American poetry to European literary history."
—Deborah Dundas, Toronto Star

"Divided into five parts, Work to Be Done reveals a mind steeped in the classics, particularly the works of Hesiod, Virgil, and Ovid. The book is rigorous in exercise and academically precise, and it strives for a perspective that sometimes seems Olympian in tone."
—Keith Garebian, Literary Review of Canada

"Poet, translator, culture historian, book reviewer and lover of language, Bruce Whiteman has sifted and scrutinized 50 years of his critical writings and selected those that still have delight to offer the curious reader."
—Ron Robinson, Winnipeg Free Press

"Whiteman’s scholarship is prodigious and his style engaging as he addresses subjects that might be viewed as archaic or passé in a unique way, his tone intelligently conversational, quirky and eminently readable . . . His attention to the crucial choice of diction for translators and the essential sensitivity to sonority for the poet is relentlessly compelling. And he can be quite funny."
—Catherine Owen, FreeFall

"Whiteman is an erudite and very well-read lover of books in general, and literature in particular. He brings a finely honed critical perspective a fine prose style of his own, and a sturdy sense of humour to the various essays and reviews collected here."
—John Oughton, The Miramichi Reader

"Whiteman's eclectic selection of essays is sure to delight lovers of literary criticism and artistic analysis."
—Open Book

"Whether it’s the challenges of translating Sappho’s poetry, an evaluation of the life and legacy of iconic figures like Goethe, Beethoven and Flaubert, or the wanting verse of Leonard Cohen, Bruce Whiteman brings not just aesthetic insight but a deep humanism to every subject he writes about. Whiteman is that increasingly rare breed: the well-read critic who brings to the page the deeply considered opinion, rather than the knee-jerk take. Each of these essays and reviews, intelligent but never pretentious, sparkles with the pleasure of revelation."
—Emily Donaldson

Praise for Bruce Whiteman

"Whiteman engages subject and readers with the phenomenology of existence—specifically, with landscape, music, and love . . . Arresting moments arrive frequently via imagery, then follow with insight . . . Whiteman is aware that the very nature of art is to elicit a reaction, and more importantly to have that reaction be expansive rather than diminishing."
Quill & Quire