Acerbic, moving, and formally astonishing, Michael Prior's second collection explores the enduring impact of the Japanese internment upon his family legacy and his mixed-race identity.
Amid the record-breaking wildfires that scorched British Columbia in 2015 and 2017, the poems in this collection move seamlessly between geographical and psychological landscapes, grappling with cultural trauma and mapping out complex topographies of grief, love, and inheritance: those places in time marked by generational memory "when echo crosses echo."
Burning Province is an elegy for a home aflame and for grandparents who had a complex relationship to it--but it is also a vivid appreciation of mono no aware: the beauty and impermanence of all living things. "The fireflies stutter like an apology," Prior writes; "I would be lying to you / if I didn't admit I love them."
MICHAEL PRIOR is a writer and a teacher. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous magazines and anthologies across North America and the U.K., including Poetry, The New Republic, Narrative, Ambit, Poetry Northwest, The Margins, PN Review, Verse Daily, Global Poetry Anthology 2015, The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry, and the Academy of American Poets' Poem-a-Day series. He is a past winner of Magma Poetry's Editors' Prize, The Walrus's Poetry Prize, and Matrix Magazine's Lit POP Award for Poetry. His first full-length book of poems, Model Disciple, was named one of the best books of the year by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Prior holds graduate degrees from the University of Toronto and Cornell University. He divides his time between Saint Paul, M.N. and Vancouver, B.C.
Praise for Michael Prior and Burning Province:
“A magnificent collection. In a voice tenderly apocalyptic, Burning Province transmutes inherited stories and silences around the internment of Japanese-Canadians at the outbreak of World War II into a sublime testimony of resilience. These poems enact with technical conviction Simone Weil’s dictum, ‘no grandeur except in gentleness.’ Michael Prior’s fierce gentleness is an exciting and exacting talent.” —Ishion Hutchinson, author of House of Lords and Commons
“‘When the land is gone,/meet me where it was,’ writes Michael Prior in this superb second collection, where the poet brings the terrains of both erased histories and erased wilderness to life with startling force and awe. Prior’s skill as a poet lies in his ability to both shape into being and rupture existing ideologies of the land and what it shelters—his poems upend preconceived notions of the pastoral. A highway built by a great-grandfather during internment, cygnets, fires, dreams of Kyushu, cardinals preparing for storms—each detail is rendered exquisitely. Fresh, crisp, and alive, this book is essential reading—if not for the breathless beauty of its lines, then for its historical revelations. Prior ensures that the stories of those loved ones never vanish.” —Sally Wen Mao, author of Oculus
"Memory is a burning province in this noctilucent book that sings the night folds of history—its forgotten ragments and repressed accounts. Passion runs through the poems like a subversive river. Portraits smolder with residual depth; the negative space where 'salt and silver nitrate / scribe light’s dictation on the page . . .' The conundrum of Theseus’s ship becomes a trope for disruptions of identity and cultural heritage. When Michael Prior considers the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, his sources are primary and visceral. The poems’ metabolism—the linguistic synergy that imbues language with life—offers inexhaustible discoveries in lines sharp as incisions, riveting in their precision. Sensual pastorals, gorgeously-thought eclogues, create a stereophonic alliance of political consciousness with lyric imagination. 'When the land is gone, / meet me where it was.' Haunted by the exigencies of humans and planet, Prior’s elegiac lyric narratives are as beautiful as they are necessary. His poems will entice you to see and feel the world freshly, the greatest gift literature can bestow." —Alice Fulton, author of Barely Composed
Praise for Michael Prior and Model Disciple:
“Prior [has] formal strength and self-conscious wit…His inventive approaches to self-revelation help break his work out of a purely confessional mode and give it refreshing emotional range.”—Montreal Review of Books