Eli Mandel

Eli Mandel (1922-1992). Courtesy Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan.

Eli Mandel
Notable award(s) Governor General's Award
Spouse(s) Miriam Mandel, Ann Hardy
Children Evie, Charles, Sara

Elias Wolf Mandel (December 3, 1922 - September 3, 1992) was a Canadian poet and academic, who edited many Canadian anthologies.[1]


Youth and educationEdit

Mandel was born  in Estevan, Saskatchewan, to Russian Jewish parents who had emigrated from the Ukraine, and grew up the Canadian prairies during the Great Depression.[2] He got a job working for a pharmacist, who landed him a position serving in Canada's Medical Corps during World War II.[3] Mandel returned a forever emotionally distraught man who was destined to live the rest of his life without a sense of belonging. This helps explain the alienation that is illustrated throughout his writings.

He studied English at the University of Saskatchewan earning a Master of Arts degree in 1950. His further studies at the University of Toronto earned him a Ph.D. in 1957.[4]

Marriage and careerEdit

Mandel taught English and creative writing at the University of Alberta, University of Victoria, University of Toronto, and York University.[2]

He was married to Miriam Mandel for 18 years. The couple had 2 children, Evie and Charles. In 1967 he divorced her and married Ann Hardy; they had a daughter, Sara.[5]

Eli Mandel's 1st significant collection was entitled Minotaur poems, which appeared in Trio, a 1954 anthology of poems by Mandel, Gael Turnbull, and Phyllis Webb published by Raymond Souster's Contact Press.[6] His 1st book was Fuseli poems, 1960.[7]

Mandel was also an active critic and editor. He published a 1969 monograph on his fellow-poet Irving Layton and in his first anthology, Poetry62/Poesie62(1962, co-edited with Jean-Guy Pilon), he also brought to attention many otherwise unnoticed newcomers of the 1950's such as Al Purdy, Milton Acorn, D.G. Jones and Alden Nowlan.

10 years prior to his death, Eli Mandel's passing would have been significant news; however, because of a series of strokes that left him unable to write, he had long since gone unrecognized.


Mandel's style was contemplative and intellectual - "an ironic poet, rather than an angry one".[7]

He deliberately lacks emotion in his work, which heightens his desired hopeless outlook. This is a central feature in all of his works.[7]

His works seem to have been deeply influenced by World War II, especially all the horrors of the Jewish concentration camps. Despite the lack of direct references to the war until Stony Plain (1973), his work illustrates many grim and morbid images of despair, destruction written with a tone of inescapable pessimism.[7]

Being exceptionally literarily complex, his early works appear to have been written for "a scholarly rather than public audience".[7] However, later, starting with the poetry of Black and secret man (1964), Mandel simplifies the syntax and uses more colloquial language. While the thoughtful view remained as it was in his earlier work, a wittier tone replaced the previously somber one.

Critical ReceptionEdit

Eli Mandel's book, The Family Romance (1986), has been characterized by his quotations from essays on Hugh MacLennan and Northrop Frye's The Great Code.[8] Both excerpts exemplify Mandel's questioning of whatever is viewed as orthodoxy. He refuses to let pass what most people simply accept. In this essay collection, it has been recognized that the first piece, Auschwitz and Poetry, is the most powerful and significant and the last of this series of essays, "The Border League: American 'West' and Canadian 'Region'", seems to be the least successful.[9]

The Other Harmony: The collected poetry of Eli Mandel, is a 2-volume collection in which the 1st includes works such as Mandel's contributions to Trio, His Fuseli Poems, An Idiot Joy, Stony Plain, and many others. It has been acknowledged as the more noteworthy of the 2 volumes in terms of its primary material.[10]


Mandel won the 1968 Governor General's Award for English language poetry or drama for An Idiot Joy.[11]

In 1982 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.[11]

In 1989 he was made an honorary Doctor of Letters by York University. York University Honorary Degree Recipients, Web.



  • Trio: First poems (by Gael Turnbull, Phyllis Webb, & Eli Mandel). Toronto: Contact Press, 1954.
  • Fuseli Poems. Toronto: Contact Press, 1960.
  • Black and Secret Man. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1964.
  • An Idiot Joy. Edmonton: Hurtig, 1967.
  • Crusoe: Poems selected and new Toronto: Anansi, 1973.
  • Stony Plain. Erin, ON: Press Porcepic, 1973. ISBN 0-88878-010-9
  • Out Of Place: Poems. Erin, ON: Press Porcepic, 1977. ISBN 0-88878-074-5
  • Life Sentence: Poems and Journals: 1976-1980. Toronto: Press Porcepic, 1981.
  • Dreaming Backwards, 1954-1981: The selected poetry of Eli Mandel. Don Mills, ON: General, 1981. ISBN 0-7736-1091-X
  • The Other Harmony: The collected poetry of Eli Mandel (edited by Judy Lea Chapman & Andrew James Stubbs). Regina, SK: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 2000. ISBN 0-88977-138-3
  • From Room to Room: The poetry of Eli Mandel (edited by Pete Webb). Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2011.


  • Criticism: The silent-speaking words: eight talks for CBC Radio. Toronto: CBC Publications, 1966.
  • Irving Layton (edited by William French). Toronto: Forum House, 1969.
  • Another Time. Erin, ON: Press Porcepic, 1977. ISBN 0-88878-077-X
  • The Family Romance. Winnipeg, MB: Turnstone Press, 1986. ISBN 0-88801-103-2


  • Poetry 62 (edited with Jean-Guy Pilon). Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1961.
  • Five Modern Canadian Poets (edited with Roy Bentley). Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1970.
  • Contexts of Canadian Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977.
  • Poets of Contemporary Canada. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart (New Canadian Library), 1972.
  • Eight More Canadian Poets. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1972.
  • A Passion for Identity: Introduction to Canadian studies (edited with David Taras). Toronto & New York: Methuen, 1987.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[12]

Audio / videoEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. M. Casey, Diana. Eli Mandel. Great Neck Publishing
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sharon Drache, "Mandel, Eli," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton:Hurtig, 1988), 1290. Print.
  3. Kizuk, R. Alexander. "Desert Words: Eli Mandel's Poetry"
  4. Colin Boyd, "Mandel, Eli," Canadian Encyclopedia Web, July 10, 2006.
  5. "Elias (Eli) Wolf Mandel Biography," Estevan, Saskatechewan,, Web, Apr. 25, 2011.
  6. "Phyllis Webb," Canadian Women Poets,, Web, Apr. 12, 2011
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named emandeloc
  8. Matthews, Lawrence. "The Martian of Estevan". ECW Press Ltd, 2001
  9. Fetherling, Douglas. "Books in Canada". Toronto, 1993. Vol. 22, Iss. 1; pg.56.
  10. Querenguesser, Niel. "Canadian Literature". Vancouver: Spring 2003., Iss.176; pg 166.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Eli Mandel," Online Guide to Writing in Canada,, Web, May 1, 2011.
  12. Search results = au:Eli Mandel, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Nov. 29, 2014.

External linksEdit

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