A former Poet Laureate of Canada and finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize returns with a wide-ranging new collection of poems.
CBC Best Canadian Poetry of 2020
In John Steffler's luminous collection, And Yet, dreams, memory and desire are forms of wilderness that burst into our daily lives, inspiring us to see ourselves and the world anew. Exuberant, powerful, even prescient, the poems confront the unknown and unexpected around and within us and call up our impulse to resist certainty and finality. The flimsiest shelter might seem best; a trail guide's house is revealed as a forest beyond names. What is outside might be most desired; a suit of clothes gazing into a mirror longs to become an iguana. In the title poem, a road-weary traveller comes in sight of the longed-for home--yet at the last minute turns away. Restless in their own language, the poems muster the impact of direct sensory experience and remind us what it means to live closer to the physical world. At times their attenuated forms acquire the anxious beauty of Giacometti sculptures. Our capacity for surprising change, these poems suggest, is both a cause for caution and a reason to hope that we can reinvent ourselves and transform our destructive technological culture.
About the author
John Steffler (1947) grew up near Thornhill, ON. In 1975, he began teaching at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, NL. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright won the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Prize for best first book in 1992. His other awards include the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Artist of the Year Award, and the Atlantic Poetry Prize for his most recent collection, That Night We Were Ravenous.
Excerpt: And Yet: Poems (by (author) John Steffler)
Since Life Values Nothing Higher than Life
and because animate matter always has at its core
a soft quick, and brains and hearts need to be nearly
mush, the great currencies have all been versions
of flint. (Even the earth favours gladiators over
poets, limestone makes its bullion from thick
skulls and teeth, only once in a lucky while we find
fossils of flowers or tongues.) But those pure
hard tools for cutting and smashing survive the millennia
still clearly describing their vanished opposite,
the hot flowering beauty their makers fed and defended.
I claim this, that all the axes, spears, arrows,
swords and daggers were for guarding tender life, not
ripping it. I claim this. I claim this. I claim this. Shut up.
I claim this claim this claim this claim this claim this claim this
Praise for And Yet and John Steffler
"The poems often open with vivid details of landscape, wildlife, and season, but tip into the surreal or the whimsical in a way that takes them into the metaphysical realm. The world seems animate, full of mystery. As [Steffler] puts it in one poem, 'Night is full of passageways through which things disappear.'" —Toronto Star
"John Steffler always pays tribute to the and-yet, but its reverberations have never been more palpable than they are here, never more poignant. These are poems haunted by material life, the never-ending and-yet of language. And that material life—the hardened paintbrush, the sleeping dog, the chalkboard, the barns and elms—is itself haunted by the past, the never-ending and-yet of what’s present. The metaphysics of this collection are riveting; I feel them in every nerve ending." —Sue Sinclair, author of Heaven's Thieves
"The title and first poem in John Steffler’s new collection, And Yet, posits its speaker at the edge of homecoming, hovering and not quite ready for the return. This site is ripe with the potentiality that streams through this collection. Time slithers into and out from its own heartwood and the poems can’t help but lean hard out of their words, shucking and dissolving into shade or light or fur, reassembling somehow into wildness. And how do we break from our practice of naming to stay instead with these moments of our time, the moments we have yet to see and the moments we are seeing? This collection deepens that question by actively listening." —Sue Goyette, author of Penelope
"In And Yet, John Steffler tenderly enacts a world that is tangling with itself—past and present, human and more-than-human, personal histories and colonial legacies, walnut bud and walnut table, gratitude and blame. Here, insights are encased in bafflements. Perceptions are caught in the act of morphing. Certainties are haunted by “what’s still behind you when you turn around.” Each poem in these pages is “a slim bridge made of watching, not / knowing” . . . reading them returned me to strangeness again and again. A wonder of a book." —Alayna Munce, author of When I Was Young and In My Prime
Other titles by John Steffler
On Poetry, Language, and Wilderness
Grey Islands, The
Brick Books Classics 2
The Breakwater Book of Contemporary Newfoundland Poetry
The Afterlife of George Cartwright
That Night We Were Ravenous
New and Selected Poems
Stories from the Maritimes and Newfoundland