In 1966 with Bill Bissett and Seymour Mayne, he established Very Stone House, publishing the new post-war generation of poets. He has taught at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Concordia University in Montreal, the University of Alberta in Edmonton, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, the Saskatoon Public Library, the University of Toronto, the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, and the University of Victoria, British Columbia. He is presently retired from institutional teaching and leads private writing retreats as well as teaching at such schools as The Banff Writing Workshops, ‘Booming Ground’ at the University of British Columbia, The Victoria Writing School, and The Sage Hill Experience in Saskatchewan. He teaches private writing retreats at Ocean Wilderness in Sooke, and at Honeymoon Bay on Lake Cowichan, (see his web site here).
He is the author of more than twenty-five books. His poetry, short stories, criticism, and non-fiction have won many prizes over the past forty-five years, including The Governor-General’s Award for Poems: New & Selected in 1979, The Canadian Authors Association Award for his, Selected Poems in 1988, and in 1987 a “Nellie” award (Canada) and The National Radio Award (USA) for the best public radio program for the script titled, “Chile,” co-authored with Lorna Crozier. He has received major awards from The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Saskatchewan Arts Board, The Manitoba Arts Board, The Ontario Arts Council, and the British Columbia Arts Board. As a critic and commentator he has appeared regularly on CBC, the national radio service in Canada, and on numerous other media outlets across Canada. In 2005 his book, There Is A Season – A Memoir In A Garden,” received the BC Award for Canadian non-fiction. The book was also nominated for The Charles Taylor Award and the Pearson Award for non-fiction. It has been released in the USA under the title What The Stones Remember and was nominated for The Barnes and Noble Award there. Alice Munro said of the memoir: “To read this book is to enter a state of enchantment.” Red Dog Red Dog, his recent novel, was released in 2009. It was nominated for the Impac Dublin prize. A New & Selected Poems has been released in the fall of 2010, and a Collected Poems will be published in 2011, both from Harbour Publishing. He has appeared at literary festivals around the world and has read and published his work in many countries, including, England, Scotland, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy, China, Japan, Chile, Colombia, Netherlands, and Russia. His poetry, fiction, and non-fiction appear in all major Canadian anthologies of English literature. A critical monograph of his life and writing, titled Patrick Lane,” by George Woodcock was published by ECW Press.
The day comes crying like wet silk, thin and slow,
the burden of morning an old capacity
resembling love. Oh, the decades keep me shining.
I touch the broken words, the forms:
they are clouds in the dawn, pale surprises,
blessings that vanish, the snow falling fast.
This is the ordinary light, a past so far back
I can’t find the beginning in all its war and poverty.
I am lost in an imagined cemetery.
I cry out beauty: I say flame, say mouth, say utter.
Death’s symmetry fills me with shells and skulls.
Solitude, that simple, anchoritic dance is not enough.
I have brought out my dead, but to what avail?
They stagger along the empty beach,
a spare snow spilling from their eyes.
And the departures: the Mute swans flying out of the dawn,
their pale wings against the moon and the false light broken.
There are thin waves on the gravel, on the broken shells.
Drums begin down the shore, the first people singing in the longhouse.
I tell you, I could fly when I was a child.
I swear it on the clouds that carried me to the sea.
But that time too is gone.
The wind drives the white spirits into the trees.
The stars swarm in terrible fires, in endless ice.
There are no stories, but that I make then so.
I am on my knees translating the wedged language of the swans,
the obsolete informing of their shadows on the snow.
I begin to see the dragonfly and the lily again.
With a clarity that is like what I would like to remember
fine wine is and can’t because the distance is too great.
But the clarity is there in spite of this refusal. Still,
I go to the garden as my mother did, in obscurity,
in the surety of loneliness, my crawling into the dark.
I want to believe I am in search of blossoms,
but perhaps it is only the earth I want,
the coolness there. I know. I don’t know.
I am by the pond staring through the blue wing of a dragonfly.
What is this divinity, that I must search for it again?
My mother stands under the mimosa, demure.
Which she wasn’t. But that I see her so. Clearly.
The lily too, in the day, the petals not yet fallen.