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Poetry Canadian

On the Material

by (author) Stephen Collis

Publisher
Talonbooks
Initial publish date
Apr 2010
Category
Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780889226326
    Publish Date
    Apr 2010
    List Price
    $17.95

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 16
  • Grade: 11

Description

Structured in three parts, On the Material is a meditation on language, geography, socio-economics and the body, moving from the glut of fossil-fuelled consumer excess to the materiality of a single book.

Composed almost entirely of quatrains (each page being comprised of four four-line stanzas) and written while travelling through North America in 2008, “4 × 4” navigates issues of space and movement in the global age. As economies crumble, ecosystems fail and peak oil approaches, Collis records the production of a disarticulation of social discourse that our consumer society has generated: “After all we made money out of matter here / Now condos shield us from the computer hum / Of on-line trading and wars “ash on “at screens / As 4 × 4s cool and ping mud covered in double garages.”

In its bridging second section, “I Fought the Lyric and the Lyric Won,” the desire to express wins out over the desire to possess. Beauty, contemplation and human communication seem to have abandoned the world, and their absence from the everyday has re-engaged the poet’s struggle with language—has left a need to reinvent human discourse and its attendant relations.

The third section, “Gail’s Books,” is a sequence of poems in memory of Stephen Collis’s sister, Gail Tulloch. A month after Gail’s death from cancer in 2002, a “re destroyed her house, removing every material reminder of her from the earth. All that remained was one book recovered from a pool of water in the ruins after the “re. Dried in the air, this book, and those Collis had previously borrowed from his sister, become a way for the poet to read back into the elemental heart of absence and loss—the “material” of the books displacing, and in some way recovering, how language holds the materiality of the physical world.

About the author

Stephen Collis is an award winning poet, activist, and professor of contemporary literature at Simon Fraser University. His poetry books include Anarchive (2005), The Commons (2008), On the Material (2010 — awarded the BC Book Prize for Poetry), and the forthcoming To the Barricades (2013). He has also written two books of criticism, including Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (2007). His collection of essays on the Occupy movement, Dispatches from the Occupation (2012), comes out of his activist experiences and is a philosophical meditation on activist tactics, social movements, and change. A Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow at Simon Fraser University in 2011/12, Collis has read and lectured across Canada, the United States, and Europe. The Red Album is his first novel.

Stephen Collis' profile page

Awards

  • Winner, BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

Librarian Reviews

On the Material

In this collection the poet strives to use language to accurately and artfully capture the essence of the loss of a loved one, the healthy eco-systems of our natural and inner worlds, and our decaying modes of expression and living. The book is divided into three sections. One long poem integrates the language of our consumer culture with the pain of what it overlooks in a compelling and innovative rant. Another section laments our losses in going from efforts at “meeting our needs to excess and waste.” The last section that flows from the death of the poet’s sister, asks questions about memory; what is a life; what remains after we’re gone; what can those who are left behind, when someone dies, hold onto physically and otherwise.

This book won the 2011 BC Book Prizes, Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. BC Books for BC Schools. 2011-2012.

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