Robert Kroetsch, “Poem of Albert Johnson”

  1. From whose point of view is this poem written? What is it about the fugitive that the hunters cannot forgive?
  2. The specific events of the manhunt are suggested in a very compressed form. How many of the events can you list? Compare you list with the events as they appear from reading of “The Naming of Albert Johnson” on page 504
  3. Kroetsch relies on diction and unexpected juxtaposition of words for much of his effect. What is suggested by “blood reason”? “red authority”? “baited their pride”?
  4. Examine the phrase “the brave running/by which he will become poet of survival/to our suburban pain/” What combinations of ideas are suggested? The word “survival” is obviously appropriate to Johnson’s flight. In what sense might he be a poet? Might his skill in eluding his pursuers be considered artistic?
  5. What is suggested by the words “suburban pain”? Is Kroetsch suggesting that the hunters, dependent on the city for survival, are out of place and less at home in the north than Johnson is? Is he suggesting that the general public, safe in their suburban homes, find the circumstances of the hunt painful? What were the odds against Johnson? What is the natural human reaction to the underdog? What was there in Johnson’s performance to inspire admiration?
  6. How is the incident in parenthesis at the end of the poem used to influence our attitude to the posse?
  7. In what way might Johnson be considered “the poet of our survival”? Is Kroetsch perhaps suggesting that the life of every individual is a fight for survival?