David Helwig: published works

A House in Memory: Last Poems McGill–Queen's University Press 2020
A House in Memory cover

“When the poet and novelist David Helwig—a recipient of the Matt Cohen Prize for lifetime achievement and a member of the Order of Canada—died in October 2018, he left behind a substantial catalogue of unpublished work.

A House in Memory, a selection of Helwig's last poems, was assembled by his daughter, Maggie. It shows an author still at the height of his powers, creating work in complex formal structures, contemplating mortality, memory, and the landscape of his adopted home of Prince Edward Island, and paying tribute to his literary predecessors.” —McGill–Queen's University Press

It is Always Summer Nimbus Publishing / Bunim & Bannigan Revised edition, 2017
It Is Always Summer cover

Rapid changes in the world — paperback editions, bankruptcies, the founding of more new presses — had the eventual effect of bringing the rights of several books back to me as the original author. The result of all this is the current, revised edition of It Is Always Summer, which is now available as an e-book and a paperback. See the dedicated It Is Always Summer page here

Sudden and Absolute Stranger Oberon Press 2017
Stranger cover

“Almost thirty-five years ago we published The Rain Falls Like Rain, a selection of poems written up to that time. Sudden and Absolute Stranger presents a substantial selection from David Helwig's later works. … Helwig is always graceful and vigorous, an accomplished and mature poet, his work beautiful, spare, elegant and intelligent.” —Oberon

Keeping Late Hours Oberon Press 2015
Keeping Late Hours cover

For years David Helwig sent poems to friends, as New Year's presents, from his home in Prince Edward Island. Now these poems can be enjoyed by a wider public. The subjects extend from the game of golf to meditations on the present and the deep past. A series of sonnets deals with the death of a close friend. David Helwig's sharp eye brings great cities before us as well as the day-to-day landscape of maritime Canada.

“In the elegance and stillness of ‘Keeping Late Hours,’ David Helwig offers time as navigator to memory and anticipation. Each observation is an exquisite snapshot of a moment, a place, a person, rendered in deep, clear language. These poems mark time's passage hourly, daily, yearly, suspending it just long enough for us to recognize that, ‘Beauty's afoot, the universe in disguise/ ’ (The Hours) . . .an arresting and ambitious addition to an extraordinary body of work.” —Citation for the poetry winner of the PEI Book Award, May 2016

Clyde Bunim & Bannigan 2014
Clyde cover

“Clyde ... is representative of an enigmatic generation of Canadians who ... came of age after the Second World war ... This is a memory novel ... an entertaining and fast read ... Clyde is a character study, a rake's progress of sorts, and on those terms it succeeds.” —Quill and Quire

Seawrack Frog Hollow Press 2013
Seawrack cover

Contemporary Canadian Poetry, Volume 7.

"David Helwig has written two-handed poetry: a lyrical seasonal record appears in series with a strange, discomfiting, valedictory narrative. The seasonal record is short and tight, the odd narrative explosive in subject and in emotion. Helwig has already found acclaim as a poet but this book will surprise his devoted readers and should attract new ones."
-- from the publisher

About Love Biblioasis 2012
About Love cover

About Love contains the only group of connected stories that Anton Chekhov published. The three stories were written in the summer of 1898, after a winter spent in the south of France. Translated by David Helwig and illustrated by Seth, they provide an attractive and convenient introduction to his work.

“About Love: Three Stories by Anton Chekhov" is the year's most beautifully designed work of fiction with its cover artwork and illustrations by Seth and careful attention to typography. The most impressive thing about this volume, though, is David Helwig's fresh translation of these linked stories by Anton Chekhov.” —largeheartedboy.com; with links to music selections suggested by the text

Simon Says Oberon Press 2012
Simon Says cover

The seven stories in Simon Says offer an elliptical but probing look at a series of moments in the life of Simon McAlmond. The stories are all written entirely in dialogue. The reader is invited to listen in and to fill the gaps in the narrative, becoming acquainted with the characters in an indirect but telling way.

“seven linked stories ... a portrait of a man of great talent and great (perhaps greater) failings ... thoroughly entertaining ... a triumph.” --Ian Colford, Fiddlehead.

The Essential Tom Marshall Porcupine's Quill 2012
___ cover

This new collection in the Porcupine's Quill Essential Poets Series is co-edited by Tom Marshall's friends David Helwig and Michael Ondaatje. These poems restore Tom Marshall to his rightful place in the Canadian canon. Elegant and probing, they reveal his distinctive voice, his shrewd irony, his daring intensity, his preoccupation with mortality and the enduring power of myth.

"Marshall was a prominent member of the literary scene in Kingston, Ontario, and this book provides evidence why. There are many genuine delights in this work."
--Quill & Quire

Available from the publisher as an ebook at $4.99; click here.

Killing McGee Oberon Press 2011
Killing McGee cover

In the dark at the end of winter, a shot is heard. A famous public figure lies dead. The murder haunts a Canadian historian as he reflects on the ruinous state of his own life. Only fierce honesty and a wry sense of humour keep him going. A beautiful student vanishes. Snow and cold threaten. But he finds that he can reinvent history and perhaps his own life. David Helwig has written a superbly lovely story, a tale touched by beauty in a world otherwise driven by cold and darkness.

"Helwig has a marvellous comedic aptitude for description"
--Quill & Quire

Mystery Stories Porcupine's Quill 2010
Mystery Stories cover

"Stories that display his considerable talent for characterization and wry inventiveness . . . as strong and substantial as anything anyone in Canada is writing today."
--Winnipeg Free Press

Available from the publisher as an ebook at $4.99; click here.

The Sway of Otherwise Oberon Press 2008
The Sway of Otherwise cover

Graceful and vigorous poems . . . Buy Helwig's The Sway of Otherwise and enjoy the work of an accomplished and mature poet." -- Journal of Canadian Poetry

"The Sway of Otherwise is a wonderful collection. These are beautiful poems: spare, elegant and intelligent, they are so well-worked that their sway looks effortless." -- Dalhousie Review

"What I liked about this collection is the way sound complements meaning, as well as the accessibility of his style (there are poems here that anyone can read and enjoy)." -- The Overdecorated Bookcase

"Through a deft, quiet use of form, Helwig aims for that which eludes form; that moves beyond view, shapeless and attending only to itself . . . Helwig uses form, more often than not, to its best advantage, focusing on what lies beyond, behind, between the words of the poem. He knows, also, to break form when required, when the sensory details need to squirm away in sudden, unexpected, or energetic ways. This is when The Sway of Otherwise is at its most masterful." -- Laurie D. Graham, The Malahat Review

Audio clips are available on the Other Media page on this website. In addition, there is a reading from The Sway of Otherwise (together with an author interview) on Authors Aloud (external link).

Smuggling Donkeys Porcupine's Quill 2007
Smuggling Donkeys cover

"Smuggling Donkeys lacks nothing in largeness of thought or spirit. Helwig's sense of life's unpredictability/possibility grows more acute with each new book, and perhaps his novellas demonstrate this best. They are finely tuned explorations of flawed but redeemable human existence, intense and tender, buoyed by gentle humour and hope." -- Canadian Notes and Queries
"I enjoyed this book . . . With David Helwig I felt I was in good hands; he knows what he is doing. He controls the language of his characters without faltering, turning out a masterful monologue. His insights are sharp, characterization exact, and he is also very funny." -- The Indextrious Reader
"He's never more entertaining than he is in the novella form, and his three recent ones -- The Stand-In (2002), Duet (2004) and now Smuggling Donkeys -- are as funny and absorbing as anything you'll find in Canadian literature today." -- Prairie Fire Review of Books
" . . . impeccable comic timing . . . " -- Quill and Quire

Coming Through Bunim & Bannigan 2007
Coming Through

On sale only in USA

"Three novellas from a Canadian master" -- Los Angeles Times

"Veteran Canadian writer David Helwig . . . is a formidable talent . . . a pleasure to spend time with." -- Publishers Weekly

Saltsea Biblioasis 2007
Saltsea cover

"As a reader you feel as if you've gone to this quaint place for a vacation and met all these intriguing people . . . Helwig's considerable accomplishment is that he makes you care about all of them. Since he gives you lots to laugh about as well as some insight into the past and some mystery, you come away from Saltsea feeling that it was the best damn vacation you've had in a long time . . . a novel that may be his finest." -- Dave Williamson, The Globe and Mail
"A cast of central and peripheral characters, each one more interesting than the last . . . the novel succeeds beautifully, thanks to Helwig's poetic, dramatic and cinematic talents." -- Books in Canada
" . . . marvellously told. Helwig's talent creates each individual in this crowded cast of characters as someone with a full and present existence." -- The Indextrious Reader

The Names of Things The Porcupine's Quill 2006
Names of Things cover

"a fine new memoir . . . a chronicle of his life in Canadian letters that spans the last half-century . . . packed with everything one wants in a memoir." The Globe and Mail
"A highly polished piece of writing in its structure and its tone . . . a fine memoir . . . a document in the history of a generation of writers." -- George Fetherling, The New Brunswick Reader
"This is a writer who has been unfailingly industrious . . . He had not only created a substantial body of work in fiction and poetry, but taught English literature . . . toiled as a freelance book reviewer, journalist, editor, anthologist . . . His account of his undergraduate days at the University of Toronto is particularly interesting." -- Philip Marchand, Toronto Star

Available from the publisher as an ebook at $4.99; click here.

duet cover

Duet, a vivid and comic account of a stubbornly unromantic romance, is the story of Carman, a retired Toronto policeman and Norma, the cantankerous proprietor of a country junk-shop. Against the grain of their bad temper they create a precarious friendship.
"Duet is almost perfect . . ." -- Quill and Quire
"There's a dry humour in this story . . . it is moving and affectionate, flawless in realism and technique" -- Edmonton Journal
" . . . skill, unadorned honesty, and a clear-eyed understanding of the human quirks that rise out of fear, need, and ambivalence" -- Books in Canada

The Year One Gaspereau Press 2004
year one cover

A long poem written over the year 2001, giving an account of the gradual changes of season, the thoughts and memories that came to mind as I observed them. Published in 2004, it catches at memories from my earliest days while also being a poem of reflection and a tribute to my friends. Each day of the year offered its own discoveries, the usual cycle of the seasons alongside the unique events of those particular hours.
An audio excerpt is available on the Other Media page on this website.

Winner of the Atlantic Poetry Prize for 2004
"His gifts are, indeed, the sharp eye and quick ear that never tire the reader, despite the distance travelled . . . This is the assured accent of a poet maturely at ease in his voice and its scope . . . The Year One fluently and evocatively lights the way to live more keenly in the moment." -- Michael Thorpe, The New Brunswick Reader
"this book is significant, magnificent, and beneficent . . . " -- George Elliott Clarke

The Stand-In The Porcupine's Quill 2002
stand-in cover

Written in 1998 after a trip to Paris and its museums, The Stand-In presents a series of three lectures given by a retired professor who is a last minute substitute for a dead man. He delights himself by teasing his audience with his knowledge and obsessions, hinting at his past, reflecting both astutely and eccentrically on various works of art. I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun writing a story.
"An oblique, eccentric and intriguing novella." -- amazon.ca
"A witty, eloquent and satirical impromptu." -- Toronto Star
"A comic gem." -- Douglas Glover

Living Here Oberon Press 2001
living here cover

This collection of essays and memoirs, some of them first written for the Globe and Mail and the CBC, considers everything from the novels of Hugh Maclennan and the poetry of Al Purdy to the way styles of food have changed, how we hear and see, the nature and significance of the hidden--what interested me. The last one is my account of my own country neighbourhood on Prince Edward Island.
"Every good essayist knows that that a profound question is far more important than a satisfactory answer. Living Here poses some pretty good ones." Toronto Star

Telling Stories Oberon Press 2000
this human day cover

In Telling Stories, four of David Helwig's long history poems are brought back into print.

"One reviewer called Atlantic Crossings 'a powerful achievement of epic proportions.' Another described The Beloved, which tells the tale of Israel's greatest king, as 'glowing with light and shivering with beautiful eroticism.' These are all living narratives, filled with the strangeness of the past and the mythic power of history." -- Oberon Press.

The Time of Her Life Goose Lane Editions 2000
time of her life cover

This chronicle of one woman and her time began with old stories about the rum-runners on Lake Ontario, told to me one summer afternoon as I barbecued hamburgers by the shore of Wolfe Island just opposite Kingston, Ontario. The book was composed with a deliberately elliptical rhythm that suggests questions about the shape of life, the shape of our stories. We only think we know what life is like.
"The Time of Her Life is a story of following possibilities, seeing how they work out, and eventually moving on, without too many regrets . . . Helwig is a splendid writer who shows us convincing scenes, an old house in the south of France or a small harbour on one of the Great Lakes. He conveys vividly the atmosphere of Paris just before, during and just after the Second World War. His characters seem real . . . He leaves out all the laborious transitions, just as a good film does. He observes rather than criticizing or explaining." -- The Charlottetown Guardian
"Helwig knows how to enchant." -- The Globe and Mail.

This Human Day Oberon Press 2000
this human day cover

"This book follows the seasons of human life, moving from the streets of Montreal, through dramatic moments in human history, to the serenity of life in the countryside of Prince Edward Island ... It's full of tenderness for the surfaces of the earth and its human presences ... All its intensities are true." -- Oberon Press.

Earlier titles

An interactive display of most of these books’ covers can be seen on the next page.