Laurier Poetry

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

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All These Roads

The Poetry of Louis Dudek

A passionate believer in the power of art—and especially poetry—to influence and critique contemporary culture, Louis Dudek devoted much of his life to shaping the Canadian literary scene through his meditative and experimental poems as well as his work in publishing and teaching. All These Roads: The Poetry of Louis Dudek brings together thirty-five of Dudek’s poems written over the course of his sixty-year career.

Much of Dudek’s poetry is about the practice of art, with comment on the way the craft of poetry is mediated by such factors as university classes, public readings, reviews, commercial presses, and academic conferences. The poems in this selection—witty satires, short lyrics, and long sequences—reflect self-consciously on the relationship between art and life and will draw readers into the dramatic mid-century literary and cultural debates in which Dudek was an important participant.

Karis Shearer’s introduction provides an overview of Dudek’s prolific career as poet, professor, editor, publisher, and critic, and considers the ways in which Dudek’s functional poems help, both formally and thematically, to carry out the tasks associated with those roles. Comparing Dudek’s reception to that of NourbeSe Philip, Marilyn Dumont, and Roy Miki, Frank Davey’s afterword locates Dudek in a pre-1980s version of multiculturalism that is more complex than many critics would have it. According to Davey, Dudek broadened the limits on the possible range and type of poetry for subsequent generations of Canadian writers.

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Barking & Biting

The Poetry of Sina Queyras

Sina Queyras

This collection brings together representative work from Sina Queyras’s poetic oeuvre. Queyras is at the forefront of contemporary discussions of genre, gender, and criticism of poetry. Her influential blog-turned-literary-magazine, Lemon Hound, published up-and-coming writers as well as work by established literary figures in Canada and abroad.

The title, Barking & Biting, makes reference to the tagline of Lemon Hound: “more bark than bite.” Erin Wunker’s introduction situates Queyras’s poetry within ongoing debates around genre and gender. It suggests that Queyras’s writing, be it literary critical, poetic, or prose, is precise and probing but avoids toothless critical positioning. It pays particular attention to Queyras’s poetic innovations and intertextual references to other women writers, and suggests that read together Queyras’s oeuvre embodies an engaged feminist attention—what Joan Retallack has called a “poethics,” where poetry and ethics are bound together as a mode of inquiry and aesthetics.

Queyras’s poems trace a consistent concern with both poetic genealogies and the status of women. Thus far, twenty-first century poetics have been preoccupied with two ongoing conversations: the perceived divide between lyric and conceptual writing, and the underrepresentation of women and other non-dominant subjects. While these two topics may seem epistemologically and ethically separate, they are in fact irrevocably intertwined. Questions of form are, at their root, questions of visibility and recognizability. Will the reader know a poem when she sees it? And will that seeing alter her perception of the world? And how is the form of the poem altered, productively or un-, by the identity politics of its author? These are the questions that undergird Queyras’s poetry and guide the editorial selections.

Queyras’s poetics pay dogged attention to questions of both representation and genre. In each of her poetry collections she inhabits tenets of the traditional lyric but leverages the genre open to let conceptualism in. This is demonstrated in her afterword, “Lyric Conceptualism, a Manifesto in Progress,” which was first published on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet the Blog. In it Queyras puts forward a set of maxims about the possibilities of a new hybrid, the conceptual lyric poem.

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Before the First Word

The Poetry of Lorna Crozier

Lorna Crozier’s radical imagination, and the finely tuned emotional intelligence that is revealed in the clarity of her poetry, have made her one of Canada’s most popular poets. Before the First Word: The Poetry of Lorna Crozier is a collection of thirty-five of her best poems, selected and introduced by Catherine Hunter, and includes an afterword by Crozier herself. Representing her work from 1985 to 2002, the collection reveals the wide range of Lorna Crozier’s voice in its most lyrical, contemplative, ironic, and witty moments. Hunter’s introduction discusses the poet’s major themes, with particular attention to her feminist approach to biblical myth and her fascination with absence and silence as sites for imaginative revision. Crozier’s afterword, “See How Many Ends This Stick Has: A Reflection on Poetry,” is a lyrical meditation that provides an inspirational glimpse into the philosophy of a writer who prizes the intensity of awareness that poetry demands, and is tantalized by what predates speaking and all that cant be named. An engaging volume that will appeal to undergraduate students as well as general readers of poetry.

Lorna Crozier’s work has won many awards, including the Governor Generals Award in 1992 (for Inventing the Hawk), the first prize for poetry in the CBC Literary Competition, the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry in 1992, a National Magazine Award in 1995, and two Pat Lowther Memorial Awards (1993 and 1996) for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman. She has published fourteen books of poetry, most recently, Whetstone. Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, she now lives in British Columbia, where she is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Victoria.

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Blues and Bliss

The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke

Blues singer, preacher, cultural critic, exile, Africadian, high modernist, spoken word artist, Canadian poet—these are but some of the voices of George Elliott Clarke. In a selection of Clarke’s best work from his early poetry to his most recent, Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke offers readers an impressive cross-section of those voices. Jon Paul Fiorentino’s introduction focuses on this polyphony, his influences—Derek Walcott, Amiri Baraka, and the canon of literary English from Shakespeare to Yeats—and his “voice throwing,” and shows how the intersections here produce a “troubling” of language. He sketches Clarke’s primary interest in the negotiation of cultural space through adherence to and revision of tradition and on the finding of a vernacular that begins in exile, especially exile in relation to African-Canadian communities.

In the afterword, Clarke, in an interesting re-spin of Fiorentino’s introduction, writes with patented gusto about how his experiences have contributed to multiple sounds and forms in his work. Decrying any grandiose notions of theory, he presents himself as primarily a songwriter.

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By Word of Mouth

The Poetry of Dennis Cooley

Dennis Cooley, one of Canada’s most prominent poets, says writing becomes political when you play with certain kinds of voices. His poetry has been influenced and inspired by the prairies and other Canadian poets, but he insists on disturbing the formal poetic inheritance he esteems. His engagement with a variety of speaking voices asks that readers question authority and challenge institutional privilege. In By Word of Mouth, a collection from across his career, readers will discover how Cooley returns to the prairie vernacular and speaks to Canadian identity. Poetry, says Cooley, is about our time and our place.

Nicole Markotić’s introductory essay discusses how Dennis Cooley plays with poetic reference, inspires with syntactical surprises, parodies contemporary writing, and indulges in wild, celebratory puns. This book roams around Dennis Cooley’s poetical world and invites the reader to play along.

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Certain Details

The Poetry of Nelson Ball

Nelson Ball

Nelson Ball has had a significant impact on contemporary Canadian poetry not only as a poet but as an editor, with his Weed/Flower Press in the 1960s and 70s. Certain Details provides a major overview of the breadth and many paths of Ball’s poetry over six decades. This selection of his work includes his trademark minimalist poems in addition to longer works and sequences; it spans nature poems, homages, meditations, narratives, found poems, and visual poems. The book contains selections from all of Ball’s major collections as well as works that have previously appeared only in chapbook or ephemeral form.

In a generous and thoughtful afterword, and for the first time in print, Ball discusses his processes, influences, and aesthetics. The book is introduced by editor and poet Stuart Ross, who offers a personal entry point into Nelson Ball’s extraordinary oeuvre.

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Chamber Music

The Poetry of Jan Zwicky

Arcing across thirty years and seven volumes, Jan Zwicky’s poetry has always been acutely musical (and sensitive to the silence out of which music comes). In the compositions in Chamber Music, the first anthology of Zwicky’s poems, one may perceive the attunement of her vocations: poet, philosopher, violinist. Her poetry both praises and relinquishes the earth, bearing witness to the fierce skies of the prairies and the freezing rain of the West Coast. Enacting the virtue of clarity prized and defended by her explicitly philosophical work, this poetry is both resonant and integrated. It is also formally diverse, ranging from the singular focus of the lyric ode to suites of variations and fugal structures, from polyphonic textures to the sprawling reach of narrative gestures. Throughout, one feels the deft hand of an adept using powerful metaphors to explore themes of colonial violence, environmental devastation, spiritual catastrophe, and transformation.

Resisting Western philosophy’s exclusion of imagination from civic life, Zwicky’s poetry is noteworthy for the tension it achieves between the abstract and the personal, the general and the particular. Meditating repeatedly on themes of love and grief, this poetry is at once passionately committed to the lucidity of its utterances and the fidelity of its images.

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Children of the Outer Dark

The Poetry of Christopher Dewdney

A four-time Governor General’s-award nominee for both poetry and non-fiction, Christopher Dewdney is celebrated internationally as a writer and a visionary and is best known for his particular imagining of place and memory. Beginning with Paleozoic fossil formations in southwestern Ontario and moving through eons of natural history to cityscapes and the digital present, Dewdney’s poetics encapsulate often surreal experiences from radical and epiphenomenal perspectives. His writing vibrates in a standing wave between science and art, reason and myth—embedding geology, neurophysiology, linguistics, and post-digital technology within a play of transitory viewpoints. Children of the Outer Dark provides a geological survey of Dewdney’s poetic strata. The poems selected, along with their order of presentation, serve a critical function to mine diverse layers of development in Dewdney’s career. This collection will reward all those who seek inspiration and will provide teachers, students, and other writers with a short natural history of one of Canadas essential poetic minds.

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The Crisp Day Closing on My Hand

The Poetry of M. Travis Lane

The Crisp Day Closing on My Hand: The Poetry of M. Travis Lane is a collection of thirty-five of her best poems, selected with an introduction by Jeanette Lynes. An environmentalist, feminist, and peace activist, M. Travis Lane is known for witty and meticulously crafted poems that explore the elusive nature of “home” in both historical and present contexts and reflect on the identity of the woman poet and what it means to be a writer. Lane’s poems exhibit impressive range and variety—long poems, short lyrics, serial poems, poems inspired by visual art—and are richly attentive to the landscapes, both urban and wild, of her New Brunswick home. They voice a sense of urgency with respect to ecological crises and war; her poetic attention fixes unwaveringly on the smallest pebble on the coast of Fundy but is equally attuned to global patterns of destructive domination.

In her introduction “As Opportunity for Grace, This Life May Serve”, editor Jeanette Lynes discusses how Lane’s poetry integrates an ecopoetic vision with explorations of the artist’s task of mapping her world. Lane’s afterword reinforces her sense of the poet’s project as a form of mystical play, a search for patterns in the “unified disunities” of all things.

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Desire Never Leaves

The Poetry of Tim Lilburn

The selected poems in Desire Never Leaves span Tim Lilburn’s career, demonstrating the evolution of a unique and careful thinker as he takes his place among the nation’s premier writers. This edition of his poetry untangles many of the strands running through his works, providing insight into a poetic world that is both spectacular and humbling.

The introduction by Alison Calder situates Lilburn’s writing in an alternate tradition of prairie poetry that relies less on the vernacular and more on philosophy and meditation. Examining Lilburn’s antecedents in Christian mysticism and the ascetic tradition, Calder stresses the paradoxical nature of Lilburn’s writing—the expression of loss through plenitude. The divine in the natural world is glimpsed in brief flashes; nevertheless, the poet, driven by love, continues his quest for what glitters in things.

Tim Lilburn’s afterword is an evocative meditation grounded in personal history. He speaks of how poetry, a craning quiet, allows one to hear what is alive in the world. He also describes how poetry is resolutely attached to both a historical moment and an individual subjectivity that is inevitably anchored in time. Lilburn’s poetry is both a religious undertaking and a political gesture that speaks to the urgency of situating ourselves where we live.

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