Winner of the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry
Finalist for the 2017 Pat Lowther Memorial Award
The Description of the World was the original title for Marco Polo's writings about his travels, but in describing the world, Polo also helped to create it. In this collection, Skibsrud asks: is our world really what it appears to be? How do we shape it through language? And if language can create our world, can it also transform or destroy it?
A sense of vastness permeates the poems. Vistas and open fields are created rather than described. In these spaces, Skibsrud confronts us with the question of our own annihilation: atomic warfare, nuclear fallout and apocalyptic imagery inspired by French artist Jean Tinguely's Study for an End of the World.
In turn, Skibsrud also addresses the subject of birth and renewal. In a final sequence of poems inspired by the birth of her daughter, we arrive at an understanding of ourselves in relation not only to the world we are born to, but to our role in a world we are still, and always, in the process of creating.
About the author
Johanna Skibsrud is a novelist, poet and Assistant Professor of English at the University of Arizona. Her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, making her the youngest writer to win Canada's most prestigious literary prize. The book was subsequently shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Award and is currently translated into five languages. The New York Times Book Review describes her most recent novel, Quartet for the End of Time (Norton 2014) as a "haunting" exploration of "the complexity of human relationships and the myriad ways in which identity can be malleable." "It is exhilarating", writes the Washington Post, "to join a novelist working at these bracing heights." Johanna is also the author of two collections of short fiction: This Will Be Difficult to Explain (2011; shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award) and Tiger, Tiger (2018), a children's book, and three books of poetry. Her latest poetry collection, The Description of the World (2016), was the recipient of the 2017 Canadian Author's Association for Poetry and the 2017 Fred Cogswell Award. Johanna's poems and stories have been published in Zoetrope, Ecotone, and Glimmertrain Magazine, among numerous other journals. Her scholarly essays have appeared in, among other places, The Luminary, Excursions, Mosaic, TIES, and The Brock Review. A critical monograph titled The Poetic Imperative: A Speculative Aesthetics is forthcoming. A novel, Island, will also be published by Hamish Hamilton Canada in fall 2019.
"Skibsrud's poetry is best when it enacts these sorts of paradoxes, when 'eyes see sight, and know it is a wall.' She manages to be both straightforward and convoluted, and her poems have a meditative, thoughtful tone." - Winnipeg Free Press
"The Description of the World [...] opens wide essential vistas in the brain where thought is suffused with both deep attention and tenderness." - Marrow Reviews