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Poetry General

Coke Machine Glow

by (author) Gordon Downie

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Apr 2001
General, Rock, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2001
    List Price

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Gordon Downie, lead singer and lyricist for the popular Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, released his first solo record, Coke Machine Glow in Spring 2001. Alongside the album, his first book of poetry and prose under the same title was published, including the lyrics to the sixteen songs on the record. Now, on the 20th anniversary year of Coke Machine Glow, fans have more to delight in: an audiobook of Coke Machine Glow and a brand new album by Downie, released posthumously.

Coke Machine Glow is a rich, haunting collection that reveals both the public and private selves of one of Canada's most enigmatic musicians. In poetry that is urban, gritty and political, as well as romantic, nostalgic and whimsical, Downie allows us a glimpse inside his world. With his acute and observing eye, he gives us snapshots of his life, both on the road and at home; he writes of loneliness and isolation; of longing and desire; of the present and the past; of dreams and nightmares; love lost and love of family. Ultimately, this book is about the distances that bridge and separate us.

Layered and deceptively simple, imbued with Downie's wit, insight, anger, compassion and rock'n'roll edge, Coke Machine Glow is a remarkable debut from a remarkable creator.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Gordon Downie was a Canadian rock musician, writer, occasional actor, and activist. He was the lead singer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip from its inception in 1984 until his death in 2017. In 2001, Downie recorded his first solo album, Coke Machine Glow, and published his first book of poetry and prose of the same name. He released six more solo albums, two of which were published posthumously. Downie, along with his bandmates from The Tragically Hip, was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2017 for contribution to Canadian music and their support of environmental and social causes.

Excerpt: Coke Machine Glow (by (author) Gordon Downie)

Coke Machine Glow

Here we are on the highway.
Here we are on the road.
Here we are in the parking lot's
pink Coke machine glow.
Here we are in the bedroom.
Here we are in the bed.
Here we are
beside each other
after everything
we've said.

There's a haunting picture of you and a horse
You were never in better shape than you were
in World War II
Skinny little sinews
You were so tenuously you
This horse for Churchill.

The myth is neither here nor there,
from the air.
Just blue lake stains
on green and purified, parcelled squares:
a crazy quilt of spearmint,
of mustard and honey tones;
a scuffed-up kitchen floor of tiles
on top of bones
with a big trap door.
Towns down diagonal lines disappear
and drop out of sight
into the night beyond the national night,
and underneath the grit and glare
into unfettered nothingness and thin air,
as herds of clouds lazily graze
on thermal sighs of delight.
The Starpainters are taking over now,
their scaffolding is in its place.
Your anaesthesiologist tonight
is washing up and on her way.

Editorial Reviews

“[Downie] writes in an accessible, entertaining way, but with a refined enough approach that his works can’t be dismissed as crude or simplistic. When he wants, he can be quite funny, and he can drop Canadian references — Pierre Trudeau, Tim Horton's, hockey, Canada geese — without sounding like he’s trying to be Canadian. His particular strength as a poet is his unusual, unexpected imagery… the words are exact, sensuous and satisfying.” —National Post

“Downie’s fertile imagination can no longer be contained within the Hip alone.” —Nicholas Jennings, Maclean’s
“Downie has a casually attentive way with words; each one does its work without mystification or excess. At a time when poetry has mostly turned away from large-scale social realities, he bridges deftly and persistently between personal and national narratives. Like Greg Curnoe and Stan Rogers, he never learned that ‘here’ is a four-letter word.” —Robert Everett-Green, Globe and Mail
Coke Machine Glow…is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated poetry collection in recent memory…Downie doesn’t disappoint…[He] is something of a national treasure.” —Calgary Herald

Coke Machine Glow is a wildly enjoyable read…[Downie] writes of and from hotel rooms, hotel bars and diners, giving us a peek at the often boring and lonely, but occasionally exhilarating, life of a travelling performer.” —Moe Berg, Globe and Mail

“[Downie’s] gentle irongy and clever conceptual turns are thoroughly contemporary and undeniably original…Downie’s debut…possess[es] a distinct, personal vision and reintroduces whimsy and humour to an artform often hobbled by its own self-importance — laudable achievements for any first book.” —Kevin Connolly, eye Weekly

“Songs like “Thirty-eight Years Old,’ ‘Wheat Kings’ and ‘Nautical Disaster’ have inspired a new generation of Canadian poets by demonstrating how relevant, contemporary narratives can be rendered in provocative yet accessible verse…[H]is best poems [are] elegantly understated…” —Quill and Quire

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