Madeleine Gagnon has made a mark on Quebec literature as a poet, novelist, and non-fiction writer. Born in Amqui, a little village in the Matapedia Valley on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, she decided at the age of twelve to be a writer, and after her early education with the Ursuline nuns, went on to study literature, philosophy, and psychoanalysis at the Université de Montréal, the Sorbonne, and the Université d’Aix-en-Provence, where she received her doctorate. Since 1969, she has published over thirty books while at the same time teaching literature in several Quebec universities.
Her work in all genres combines passion, lucidity, erudition, poetic vision, and political commitment, boldly transgressing the boundaries between poetry and prose. Among her many awards are the prestigious Athanase-David Prize (2002) for her lifetime body of work, the Governor General’s Award for Poetry (1990) for Chant pour un Québec lointain (translated by Howard Scott as Song for a Far Quebec), and the Journal de Montréal Prize (1986) for Les Fleurs du catalpa. Her work has also won international recognition, with many publications in France and some fifteen translations into English, Spanish and Italian. Nancy Huston has described Madeleine Gagnon as someone in whom the boundary between inner and outer life is porous; her words are poetry and her ear for the words of others is poetry too. Everything she takes in from the world is filtered, processed, transformed by the insistent rhythms of the songs within her.