Striking out Ernest Hemingway

Special to Western News

Bookmarks spotlights the personalities and published books of faculty, staff and alumni.

Today, Shel Krakofsky, MD’76, author of Stanley Cup Seder: Poems New and Selected, answers 12 questions on his ‘bookishness’ and writing.

Known as ‘Canada’s Baseball Poet,’ Krakofsky’s poems opened – and are still included – in the Canadian Baseball Hall Of Fame. After 40 years, he recently retired as a physician. The recipient of several literary awards, he has twice received the Okanagan Fiction Award and the National Jewish Book Prize for Poetry. A former English teacher and a journalist with The Globe and Mail, Stanley Cup Seder is his fourth poetry collection.

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What book do we find you reading tonight?

A Horse Walks Into a Bar. By David Grossman.

How you decide what to read? Reviews, word of mouth, maybe occasionally judge a book by its cover?

I tend to read in bulk. I choose an author, theme or topic and stick with the choice for months, sometimes years until I become exhausted or bored. I am always reading book reviews and will interrupt my scheduled ‘curriculum’ for books that catch my attention or have been recommended by close friends.

Name one book you wish you had written.

The Bible. Big, big sales. Plus it contains the most beautiful and frightening poetry, prose, fact and fiction since baseball’s opening words in Genesis – “In-the-big-inning!”

Name one book you could never finish.

Ulysses by James Joyce. The unfamiliar slang, the tiresome nods to Chaucer, and the way too long riffs. Let the Joyce aficionados sniff at my tastes, but every June 16, I get the day off.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

Making Twig Garden Furniture by Abby Ruoff.

Any genres you avoid?

Science fiction and gothic horror. I prefer the immediacy of realism in all of its imaginative forms. Science fiction and gothic horror are very often more grim entertainment than art. More escape than serious exploration.

If you could require every university president to read one book, what would it be?

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.

What sort of objects are must-haves in your writing environment?

A view of the countryside or of the ocean.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

Cynthia Ozick. Stephen Leacock. Saul Bellow. The waiter would be Ernest Hemingway.

How do you explain what your latest book is about to them?

Hemingway would serve each of them a plate of gefilte fish garnished with horseradish and a single carrot slice. He would set each plate on a place mat of newspaper baseball box scores.

What is the best line you have ever written?

“Poetry is research – without the statistics.”

Who would you want to write your life story?

My children and grandchildren.

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Stanley Cup Seder: Poems New and Selected by Shel Krakofsky (Parchment Press, $18) is available through The Book Store at Western, or other online retailers. Krakofsky will have a public reading of his book Sunday, March 18 the Masonville Indigo in London.