"A society without poetry and the other arts would have broken its mirror and cut out its heart."
So boldly insists one of our greatest writers in Measures of Astonishment, a refreshing and eclectic mix of both deeply personal and formal essays that offer a glimpse into the minds of some of Canada’s most influential poets. In addition to Margaret Atwood, the contributors to this volume include a virtual who’s who of the country’s literary elite: Anne Carson, George Elliot Clarke, Anne Simpson, Tim Lilburn, Marilyn Bowering, Mark Abley, Glen Sorestad, Robert Currie, and Don McKay.
These writers each forward their own perspectives on the art and craft of poetry reminding us, as Tim Lilburn states, that all poetry "is the theatre of feeling," and, as Don McKay declares, that "poetry--any poetry--is always political and subversive," because it turns the tool of language "against itself." Following on this notion, Mark Abley argues that while all poets have their unique voice and vision, what binds them is that none are "afraid to demonstrate the energy of language and the sterling power of the human imagination." The energy of language and the human imagination are recurrent motifs throughout this volume.
Measures of Astonishment shines a northern light on poetry, offering unique perspectives as to what poetry is, what it does, and why it matters.
Mark Abley grew up in western Canada and has lived in the Montreal area for many years. As a student in Saskatoon, he was mentored by Anne Szumigalski and she became a lifelong friend. His books of non-fiction include Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages and Conversations with a Dead Man: The Legacy of Duncan Campbell Scott. In 2015 Coteau Books will publish his new and selected poems.
Margaret Atwood, whose work has been pubished in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; and The Year of the Flood. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.
Marilyn Bowering is a poet and novelist who lives in British Columbia. Her most recent works are Soul Mouth (poetry), What It Takes To Be Human (novel), and the libretto for Marilyn Forever (Gavin Bryars, composer). She has been short-listed for the world-wide Orange Prize, twice nominated for the Governor-General’s Prize, and received awards including the Dorothy Livesay, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Ethel Wilson and Pat Lowther Prizes as well as several National Magazine awards. She was a 2008 Fullbright Scholar. www.marilynbowering.com
Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient greek for a living.
George Elliott Clarke is revered for his poetry, including the prized volumes, Whylah Falls (1990, 2000, 2010; issued in Chinese, 2006), Execution Poems (2000, 2001, 2009); and Blues and Bliss (2008). His selected poems outed in Romanian (2005) and Italian (2012). He has also published verse drama (see Beatrice Chancy, 1999, 2008) and opera libretti (see Quebecite, 2003). Currently at work on an epic, "The Canticles," his newest book is Traverse (2014), an autobiographical poem. He is the Poet Laureate of Toronto, 2012-15.
Robert Currie is a poet and fiction writer who lives in Moose Jaw where he taught for thirty years at Central Collegiates, winning the Joseph Duffy Memorial Award for excellence in teaching language arts. He is author of ten books, most recently the novel, Living With the Hawk. His next poetry collection will be The Days Run Away. Currie was Saskatchewan’s third Poet Laureate. In 2009 he received the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.
Tim Lilburn has published nine books of poetry, including Kill-Site, Orphic Politics and Assiniboia. His work has received the Governor General’s Award, among other prizes. A selection of his poetry is collected in Desire Never Leaves, edited by Alison Calder. Lilburn has produced two books of essays, Living in the World as if It Were Home and Going Home. He has also edited and contributed to two influential essay anthologies on poets, Poetry and Knowing and Thinking and Singing: Poetry and the Practice of Philosophy. He currently teaches at the University of Victoria.
Don McKay has published a dozen books of poetry and three books of essays, some of which have been recognized with nominations and awards such as the Governor General’s Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize. He is a fool for birds and rocks, and other aspects of natural history, including the current extinction event. He lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Anne Simpson writes fiction, poetry and non-fiction. She has won a number of awards for her writing, among them the Griffin Poetry Prize for Loop. As well as her four books of poetry, she has written two novels, Falling, long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and Canterbury Beach. Her book of essays, The Marram Grass: Poetry and Otherness, delves into issues of poetry, art, and empathy. She has been a writer-in-residence at libraries and universities across Canada.
Glen Sorestad is a well known poet from Saskatoon who has had nearly 25 volumes of poems published, has been included in over 60 anthologies and textbooks, has been translated into seven languages and has given close to 500 readings of his work through North America and in Europe. He is a Member of the Order of Canada.