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Poetry Canadian

Cruise Missile Liberals

by (author) Spencer Gordon

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2017
Canadian, General, Places
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
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WARNING: Cruise Missile Liberals contains few proper poems. That is, poems with proper manners, proper etiquette, or proper service to our national narratives. Poems that reassure the powerful.Poems that lie inert⁠—with the smell of the museums. Poems that are, in a word, nice.

Instead, Spencer Gordon's debut smoulders with explosive contradiction⁠—with a charismatic voice that rewires what we could ask for in a collection. Blending gaudy lyrical excess with blemish-ridden found material, it presents the reader with guilty pleasurable collisions. It is of the wretched present: online, urban, urbane, and sweetly ironic. These are poems of play, rant, irreverence, and lip; of sparkling newness haunted by the opulent, hungry dead. Works brimming with cheek that, every so often, stiffen to a punch to the gut.

Like an updated Civil Elegies for a digital generation, Cruise Missile Liberals is a blistering debut from an author leaving his own bite-mark on "Canadian Literature."

About the author

Spencer Gordon is the author of three books: a collection of dramatic monologues, A Horse at the Window (House of Anansi Press, 2024), the poetry collection Cruise Missile Liberals (Nightwood Editions, 2017) and the short story collection Cosmo (Coach House Books, 2012). He invented the literary magazine The Puritan (now Ex-Puritan) and edited it for over a decade and, in former lives, taught writing at Humber College, OCAD University, and with the University of Toronto and George Brown College. He currently lives in Bowmanville, Ontario, situated within the traditional and treaty territory of the Mississaugas and Chippewas of the Anishinabeg, known today as the Williams Treaties First Nations. He works as a Principal Associate for Blueprint, a non-profit research organization dedicated to solving public policy challenges. Follow him on Twitter/X at @spencergordon and visit his rudimentary website at

Spencer Gordon's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Spencer Gordon’s poetry debut, Cruise Missile Liberals, might be the oddball balm you need … Gordon’s poems are completely submerged in the zany, disturbing thick of it … Gordon doesn’t just question the place of poetry (here in an overtly political Canadian context), he interrogates the role of the poet as a citizen, directly implicating himself in the critique.

Domenica Martinello, The Globe and Mail

The poems in Spencer Gordon's Cruise Missile Liberals survey political, corporate and pop-culture landscapes (so often one and the same) and comment sadly on their devastation, while never forgetting how great Taylor Swift used to be ... [A book of] disturbing, wry intelligence ... [and] taut, careful craft.

Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

Spencer Gordon's Cruise Missile Liberals is, as its title suggests, a very funny, often despairing book. Jammed with on-point pop and breathtaking turns of phrase, this collection of poems is genuinely compelling: it is hard to stop reading, so sweetly twisted is Gordon's world.

Lynn Crosbie, author of W<em>here Did You Sleep Last Night</em>, <em>Life Is About Losing Everything</em> and <em>Liar</em>

Gordon displays an acerbic wit and a knack for nifty turns of phrase as he takes satirical aim at the absurdities of life in consumer society and our obsession with celebrity ... He can be cheekily funny ... Cruise Missile Liberals offers plenty of laughs, but it's also got heart.

Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

This debut collection includes poems that play, rant, combine anxiety with ambitious experiment, and incorporate invented lyrical content with found material, to very funny and often despairing effect.

Prairie Books Now

There is a generosity of spirit on offer here for we who are tired, placeless, saturated in social media, and wasted on the bright horror of a future that never arrives. This collection is deft, intelligent, and tender, if tenderness is something that can also crush you⁠—an intimacy that panics shut. For we who are "Nature Woke," "alchemical kids with gold teeth," "wanting to live as I do, shockingly new," Gordon sings and memes against "Canada the Good" and presents us with an arresting portrait of our present moment.

Liz Howard, Griffin-Award-winning author of <em>Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent</em>

When Gordon takes his foot off of the brakes he speeds into some beautifully hellish chaos; when it breaks his previously calm surface ripples over all of us. These poems are a new type of missile ... This is heart-wrenching and powerful stuff. Cruise Missile Liberals is full of marvellous stuff.

Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry

Spencer Gordon remarks on "the way flat and tepid coke can slake thirst." That line, with its wild variation of vowels banging against the steady alliteration of ts and ks, is indicative of how good his ear can be in Cruise Missile Liberals. But it might be even more indicative of the book's aesthetics of low expectations. As you might guess from the title, there's anger in the book, but as the title perhaps also suggests, that anger is not going to get in the way of harmless fun.

Tim Conley, Canadian Literature

Cruise Missile Liberals could easily be called Late Capitalism. Spencer Gordon voices the anger and dejection that many of us feel as we survey the detritus of our political and corporate ideologies and attempt to find an alternative to the cultural crack that has previously pacified us. But Gordon does not patronize us with false hope. "There is no system to replace the ruling system," he writes in "Ticker Tape." Elsewhere, he notifies us: "If you are crying, you are not winning. There is no good living." As a solution: "You should burn down your life." Like an excitable social media stream, these poems persist to the point of "sincere emotional fatigue" yet somehow Gordon manages to make an art of exhaustion, an art of the rant. Reading Gordon's poetry and fiction, one feels caught in a Mobius strip where life and entertainment loop infinitely into each other. We are sometimes ourselves and sometimes we are Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, and Peppa Pig. Or they are us, our teetering elected representatives.

Ian Williams, author of <em>Reproduction</em> (winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize) and <em>Personals</em> (shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize)

Here, nothing is insular ... Cruise Missile Liberals interacts with the local, the national, and the global with the clout of popular culture and late capitalism. The poetry community is placed in conversation with the Trudeau government, with Instagram, with Facebook, with Hillary, and with Donald ... [It] delivers a complex picture of the present. It is a collection brimming with tongue-in-cheek lyrical excessiveness. And nothing short of unapologetic for an author's poetry debut in Canadian literature.

Philippe Pamela Dungao, Broken Pencil Magazine

Cruise Missile Liberals is a complex and accomplished first collection from a writer who has honed his voice by listening. Gordon's examination of the self in late capitalism is not always optimistic but is, in its humanity, enormously affirming.

Stevie Howell, Quill & Quire

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