PK wrote a surprising amount of fiction – a novel, a novella, over forty short stories, and a collection of short short fiction. In her early work, she experiments with modernism and surrealism; in her later fiction, she gravitates towards the allegorical logic of fairy tales and Sufi parables, though with an ironic grounding in the prosaic details of ordinary experience.
PK’s career as a writer of fiction began with short stories published alongside some of her best known poems in modernist journals in the 1940s and 50s, Preview and Here and Now. Her only novel, The Sun and the Moon, also from this period, was published under the pseudonym “Judith Cape” by Macmillan in 1944 (and edited by Margaret Atwood and republished in 1973 by Anansi with “other fictions” written in the 1940s). The novella, Unless the Eye Catch Fire, was written after PK’s return to Canada from a series of diplomatic postings with her husband Arthur Irwin, and is her most frequently anthologized prose work (first published in 1979 in the Malahat Review, and reprinted multiple times beginning with the poetry collection Evening Dance of the Grey Flies in 1981 and a limited edition pamphlet by Vancouver’s Full Spectrum Press in 1994). In 2001, stories written over sixty years were collected in A Kind of Fiction, and in 2007 her recent fiction was presented in Up on the Roof (both published by the Porcupine’s Quill). One of her last collections of new material was a series of linked short short stories, entitled You Are Here (Hedgerow Press, 2008).
A large part of the project of editing PK’s fiction involves locating the numerous versions of her published work, particularly material that appeared in journals and small magazines, and associating each text with drafts – often with other titles – in the Page fonds. At this early stage, the catalogue of PK’s fiction is partial, but already consists of about 180 drafts of about 45 published works, plus a body of material which was never published. As with the poetry, a selection of these texts will be published by the Porcupine’s Quill as a complement to The Digital Page, which will document as fully and as clearly as possible the genesis of the texts of her fiction from preliminary notes to polished prose, and all the variations in between.