The poetry of Don McKay is renowned for its piquant wit, lyric emotion, and pitch-perfect vernacular music. His work has received national acclaim and the recognition of many awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, which he has won twice, and, most recently, from the prestigious and internationally known Griffin Poetry Prize, for which his most recent book was a finalist.
Camber is the lilt in the physics of flight, the anti-gravitational alchemy of both wings and poetry. It is also at the heart of the poetry of Don McKay. Spanning three decades, and drawing on all of McKay’s major collections, this selection distills the essence of his craft and provides an overview of, and an ideal introduction to, the work to date of one of Canada’s most celebrated poets.
About the author
Don McKay has published numerous books of poetry, including Birding, or desire (1983), Night Field (1991), Apparatus (1997), Another Gravity (2000), Strike/Slip (2006), The Muskwa Assemblage (2008), and Paradoxides (2012). He won the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2007, two Governor General's Awards for Poetry (in 1991 and 2000), a National Magazine Award in 1991, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Poetry (in 1983 and 2013), and the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award in 2013. His books have also appeared on the shortlists for the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction (in 2002), the Governor General's Award for Poetry (in 1983 and 1997), and the Griffin Poetry Prize (in 2001 and 2005). He was named to the Order of Canada in 2009
McKay is also a respected editor, teacher, and scholar. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of New Brunswick, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Sage Hill Writing Experience. He has served as editor and co-publisher of Brick Books since 1975, and from 1991 to 1996, he edited The Fiddlehead. He presently lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.
- Short-listed, Griffin Poetry Prize
Excerpt: Camber (by (author) Don McKay)
Leaving home is the beginning of resemblance.
— David Seymour
On leaving, you circulate among the things you own
to say farewell, properly,
knowing they will not cease to exist
after your departure, but go,
slowly, each in its own way,
So long and thanks, with one last chop, tap,
twiddle. It won’t work just to
flip them into negatives — minus T-shirt, minus Roger
Tory Peterson both east and west —
nor to convert them into liquid
assets. This is no yard sale, this is loss,
whose interior is larger than its shell, the way you wish
home was. Do not dig the dog’s bones up
nor the rosebush by the porch.
Choose a few companions of no weight —
a crow feather found in the parking lot,
the strawsmell of her hair, a few
books of the dead, 1000
Best Loved Puns. And leave. There is a loneliness
which must be entered rather than resolved, the moon’s
pull on the roof which made those asphalt shingles
shine. A time for this,
a time for that, a time to let them both escape into
whateverness, a time to cast
away stones, to stop
building and remembering and building artful
monuments upon the memories.
To step off into darker darkness,
that no moon we call new.
A Word about the Poem by Don McKay
This poem was originally published in my book Another Gravity. The poems in that collection are taken up with three large subjects — home, moon, and flight — each of which exerts a gravitational pull on the others. “On Leaving” investigates departure as a human urge on its own, a complement to our vaunted capacity to build dwellings and histories. It suspects that the startling, oblique insights of metaphor stem from that urge, rather than from our primary, perpendicular constructions — which Wallace Stevens, in a poem on metaphor, called the “hammer of red and blue.” I wanted to find words to probe the power of loss implicit in leaving, while doing justice to its attendant pain.
“There may be no other poet in Canada who has such a fine ear for rhythm, for presenting an image that haunts you even in your sleep.…”
“Don McKay is a poet of the senses, not merely of their fingertip interactions with the world, but of the deeper senses, the bone experience of life.”
–London Free Press
“This is a poetry of extraordinary inventiveness and linguistic verve.… One of our finest poets.”
Other titles by Don McKay
All New Animal Acts
Essays, Stretchers, Poems
Collected Poems 1970-2014
The Shell of the Tortoise
Four Essays & an Assemblage
Leaf to Leaf
Open Wide a Wilderness
Canadian Nature Poems
The Muskwa Assemblage
Bird Construction Co.
Poetry from the Banff Writing Studio 2008