“Joan Crate tells stories as fluidly as she fiddles with individual words, always blending strong emotions with ingenious, often playful technique. Crate’s wit flavours the sad truth in her poems…a poet with both guts and restraint.”
- Quill and Quire 2009
Joan Crate
Joan … on why she writes …

I write for fun. I write to make myself miserable.
Both of those statements are true. If I didn’t get a lot of enjoyment out of writing, I wouldn’t do it. After all, the act of writing, just like the act of reading fine writing, lifts me from the time/space continuum and is quite magical. But to keep things interesting when writing, I usually have to introduce challenges. When I can’t rise to the particular challenge, which is often, I sometimes sink into a puddle of self-doubt and whining. And wining.
this prophecy of light and song, small warbling lives, flight and art, the holy, unholy, dead, merciful and broken birds of a feather. Their songs cut me through
From the poem “Ravenna” by Joan Crate


Black Apple, award-winning poet and writer Joan Crate’s second novel, was released in Spring of 2016.  A dramatic and lyrical coming-of-age novel about a young Blackfoot girl who grows up in the residential school system on the Canadian prairies…..

About Black Apple

Torn from her home and delivered to St. Mark’s Residential School for Girls by government decree, young Rose Marie finds herself in an alien universe where nothing of her previous life is tolerated, not even her Blackfoot name. For she has entered into the world of the Sisters of Brotherly Love, an order of nuns dedicated to saving the Indigenous children from damnation. Life under the sharp eye of Mother Grace, the Mother General, becomes an endless series of torments, from daily recitations and obligations to chronic sickness and inedible food. And then there are the beatings.


Praise for Black Apple

“Clean, tough and tender. Near the end of the residential school system in Canada, Rose Marie enters St. Mark’s and her journey is like a raven, ragged in the wind but flying strong.”

– Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach, shortlisted for the Giller Prize

“Black Apple is an achievement, a novel that examines the complexities of the residential school system from the point of view of women, including a young girl who is ripped from her family and an aging Catholic nun who has seen it all. This story of girls, women and the system that controls them grips from the very first pages.”

– Dianne Warren, author of Cool Water, winner of the Governor General’s Award

“… Joan Crate’s moving new novel, Black Apple, is both timely and welcome.”

– Quill and Quire 2016


Black Apple is widely available in bookstores. Visit Simon and Schuster Canada


Check out Black Apple on Simon & Schuster Canada’s The Look Book, a Seasonal Sampler of Great Canadian Reads, a free e-book sampler offered to all readers as an extension of its evolving Canadian publishing program. This semiannual digital publication will feature selections from new and upcoming Simon & Schuster Canada titles, with the inaugural list highlighting great Canadian fiction reads from the Spring 2016 roster.

June 28, 2017

City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize Ceremony, Calgary Municipal Building Atrium, 7:30 p.m.

Joan is represented by The McDermid Agency  •  Contact Joan
We all disappear sometimes, fall through the rear view mirror to wolves roaming a forest of blustery hormones and little-kid scared, catch whiffs of bear and sasquatch, a squirt of adrenaline pooling at the edge of sleep, quiet as terror.
From the poem "Invisible Sometimes" by Joan Crate

About Joan

Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Joan Crate was raised to have pride in her Indigenous heritage. Her first book of poetry, Pale as Real Ladies: Poems for Pauline Johnson, has become a classic.

Her first novel, Breathing Water, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Award (Canada) and the Books in Canada First Novel Award in 1989. She is a recipient of the Bliss Carman Award for Poetry and her last book of poetry, SubUrban Legends, was awarded Book of the Year by the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. She taught literature and creative writing at Red Deer College, Alberta, for over 20 years. She lives with her family in Calgary.
Joan Crate

Awards & Distinctions

Winner of the 2010 Kroetsch Poetry Book of the Year
Finalist for the 2010 Stephan G Stephansson Award for Poetry
Finalist for the 2010 Canadian Authors Association Poetry Book of the Year
Winner: Alberta Anthology Poetry, Professional Category, CBC Radio, 2004
Short-listed for the Pat Lowther Award, 2002
Foreign Homes listed as a “Book of the Year” by Vue Magazine, 2002
Winner of Millenium Poetry Competition, sub-TERRAIN Magazine, Fall 2000
Recipient of a scholarship to attend Banff School of Fine Arts, Writers’ Studio, 2005, 1999
Finalist in the Shaunt Basmajian Chapbook Competition sponsored by Canadian Poetry Association, 1998
Runner-up in People’s Poetry Competition, 1997
Substantial financial writing award from Alberta Foundation of the Arts, 1990
Short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Award (Canada) 1989
Short-listed for the Books in Canada First Novel Award, 1989
Short-listed for the WGA Novel Award, 1989
Short-listed for the CAA Poetry Award, 1989
Second Place, Alberta Fiction Competition, 1988
Bliss Carmen Award for Poetry, 1988


Published Books

Black Apple
Black Apple (novel) Simon and Schuster, 2016 — A dramatic and lyrical coming-of-age novel about a young Blackfoot girl who grows up in the residential school system on the Canadian prairies.

About Black Apple ... All the feisty Rose Marie wants to do is escape from St. Mark’s. How her imagination soars as she dreams about her lost family on the Reserve, finding in her visions a healing spirit that touches her heart. But all too soon she starts to see other shapes in her dreams as well, shapes that warn her of unspoken dangers and mysteries that threaten to engulf her. And she has seen the rows of plain wooden crosses behind the school, reminding her that many students have never left here alive.
Suburban Legends
SubUrban Legends (poetry) Freehand Press (imprint of Broadview), 2009, Poetry Book of the Year 2010 — Joan Crate’s fourth book weaves a sequence of poetic revisions and reveries, cleverly colliding suburban routine with subconscious fantasy. The specter of Snow White haunts the corridors of this collection, first as a retro-, then as a made-over fairy-tale reflection of the lives of contemporary women.
Foreign Homes
Foreign Homes (poetry) Brick Books, Dec. 2000 (Shortlisted for the 2002 Pat Lowther Award) — Foreign Homes, Joan Crate’s second book of poems, explores domesticity and dislocation, where what was thought to be home becomes alien, and where the alien is, piece by piece, made into home — often in such simple, physical acts as laying a table, or driving a highway, or reassembling a torn photograph.
Breathing Water
Breathing Water (novel) published by NeWest Press, October 1989 — The hauntingly told tale of a young mother who uses the stories told to her by her Native father to illuminate her alienation and struggle to find meaning in life as the wife of a man with whom she seems to have little in common.
Pale As Real Ladies
Pale As Real Ladies Poems for Pauline Johnson (poetry) published by Brick Books, August 1989, but now in its sixth printing — In powerful language that reflects the conflicts between the primitive and the sophisticated, Joan Crate redreams the passions which animated and tormented her famous predecessor. Part white, part Mohawk princess, Pauline Johnson /Tekahionwake would perform her poems first in buckskin, then, after the intermission, in silk.


  • Venus Rising by Laura Burkhart (poetry) published by Hagios Press, Regina, Sept. 2004


  • “Mad Men?” (essay) in Mad Men, Women, and Children: Essays on Gender and Generation (2012)
  • “Welcome to the Real World” (short fiction) British Columbia Ministry of Education for use in the course, English, First Peoples 12, 2009
  • “The Year of the Coyote,” Open Wide a Wilderness. Editors: Don McKay and Nancy Holmes. Wilfred Laurier University Press, 2009
  • “Learning to Pray” (short story) in Canadian Authors’ Association anthology, 2007
  • “Storyteller” purchased by Alberta Board of Education to be used in school curricula, 2007
  • Several Poems, Native Literature in Canada. Editors: Daniel David Moses and Terry Golding. Oxford Press, 2005
  • Several Poems, Native Poetry in Canada. Editors: Jeannette C. Armstrong and Lally Grauer, Broadview, 2001
  • “The Blizzard Moans My Name” and “Shawnandithit” (poems) in The Writer’s Craft, Harcourt Canada, May 2003
  • “Betwixt and Between” (short story) Great Stories From the Prairies. Red Deer Press, 2002, 2000
  • “Gleichen” (poem) in New Life in Dark Seas anthology, 2000
  • “Shawnandithit” (poem) No Choice but to Trust: Sandburg-Livesay Award Anthology, 2000
  • “The Invisible Landscape,” (essay) in the anthology Fresh Tracks, Writing the Western Landscape Polestar, Spring 1998
  • “Flight” and “My Grandfather Dreams” (poems) in the Livesay-Sandburg anthology, Fall 1998
  • “Shawnandithit” (poem) A Passion for Identity: An Introduction to Canadian Studies Third Edition, 1997
  • Various poems in Contre Taille: Poems choisis de vingt-cinq auteurs Canadien-Anglais. Preface by Louis Dudek. Published by Triptyque, Montreal. April 1996

Honoured to be the recipient of the 2016 City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Prize – 2016 City of Calgary Awards

Humbled to be included on the short list for the Frank Hegyi Emerging authors award – and congratulations to award-winner Emma Hooper.  Frank Hegyi Award

Joan Crate and her novel Black Apple have been shortlisted for the 2017 Calgary Book Award (W.O. Mitchell Book Prize)

Listen to CBC’s Shelagh Rogers as she interviews Joan Crate about breaking the silence around residential schools with her novel, Black Apple. CBC interview with Shelagh Rogers

Canada has acknowledged historical abuse of First Nations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologizes and states he will call upon the Pope to apologize. Prime Minister Trudeau’s tearful apology

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Findings

In Celebration of Canadian Poetry…..Each week on the Brick Books website, feature articles are posted about a Canadian poet or a specific poem or a meeting with a Canadian poet. Their presenters are poets, novelists, teachers, publishers, booksellers, musicians, readers, doctors, media people, artists….I was fortunate to be presented during Week 67 by Canadian poet Cathleen With Brick Books

Joan Crate’s poem ‘Vicarious’ has been awarded an Honourable Mention by Vallum Magazine and will appear in its May 2016 edition. Vallum Magazine

Chatelaine Magazine calls Black Apple a clear eyed view of residential schools Read Chatelaine Magazine Black Apple review

Read the Winnipeg Free Press review of Black Apple here A Harrowing history

The Toronto Star review of Black Apple – Take the indian out of the child


A celebrated poet, Joan is said to be ….’the poet of our suburban dreams and our suburbAN nightmares. She turns daily experience into the stuff of shocking fairy tales and renewed legends. Line by eloquent line, her poems give voice to our stifling silences. ”

– Robert Kroetsch

Celebrated poet Joan Crate’s fourth book weaves a sequence of poetic revisions and reveries, cleverly colliding suburban routine with subconscious fantasy. The specter of Snow White haunts the corridors of this collection, first as a retro-, then as a made-over fairy-tale reflection of the lives of contemporary women. The poems in subUrban Legends examine family relationships and gender roles with acerbic humour, frank sensuality, wistfulness, and, finally, acceptance, offering a mid-life view of childhood influences and expectations that is both stirring and wise. In Crate’s characteristically intelligent verse, these legends consider what lies beyond youth and the trite promise of “happily ever after,” taking readers to a land of complexity and nuance from which few cultural officiados report.

– Freehand Books

Read Joan’s Reviews on Goodreads