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list price: $25.95
edition:Paperback
published: Jun 2016
ISBN:9780889843929
publisher: Porcupine's Quill

Strike Anywhere

Essays, Reviews & Other Arsons

by Michael Lista

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0 of 5
0 ratings
rated!
rated!
list price: $25.95
edition:Paperback
published: Jun 2016
ISBN:9780889843929
publisher: Porcupine's Quill
Description

As Michael Lista is quick to point out, being a critic can be dangerous for your career. In his collection of essays, Strike Anywhere, he bravely takes on the inherently contradictory nature of artistic expression and tackles the moral and artistic implications of boob tube blockbusters, all while attempting to answer the age-old question: Why does poetry suck?

About the Author
Michael Lista's previous book of poems was Bloom (House of Anansi Press, 2010). He is poetry editor of the Walrus and poetry columnist for the National Post. He lives in Toronto.
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Awards
  • Commended, eLit Awards
  • Long-listed, ForeWord Indies Book Award
Editorial Reviews

Provocative and profound but eminently readable, Strike Anywhere demonstrates a critic of high order, unrestrained. It's great fun watching Lista play with matches.

Michael Lista casts his discerning eye toward poetry, television, music, and the relationship of the arts to the wider world in the illuminating essay collection Strike Anywhere: Essays, Reviews & Other Arsons.

Lista is a respected poet, with two published collections and five years of poetry columns for Canada's National Post to his credit. The bulk of Strike Anywhere is culled from those columns, in which Lista praises, criticizes, and occasionally excoriates poems (and poets), including Canadian luminaries like Leonard Cohen. He defends traditional figures like Robert Frost while suggesting that Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje might be coasting just a bit. After discussing poetry and writing, Lista focuses on television and music: Dancing with the Stars, The Walking Dead, and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," among other topics.

All of this is cogent and entertaining criticism, but it serves as warm-up to the pièce de résistance, the longest essay in the book, "The Shock Absorber." This entry examines the responsibility of artists outside of their art by analyzing Canada's prestigious (and remunerative) Griffin Poetry Prize and the means by which its founder makes his money, in parallel with a profile of a writer and Saudi Arabian political prisoner. Lista points out the ethical conflicts, but it's handled in a way that evokes mature thought; these are not the adolescent screamings of a student who has found his or her first example of hypocrisy in the world.

The book's title is apropos, as is its cover, with a burning flame on a black background; Lista's writing is incendiary, and there's no doubt he's burned some bridges along his path. Although sometimes harsh, Lista is often amusing and never falls into mean-spiritedness or mere attempts to shock-every opinion is justified with examples.

One of Lista's targets is the common practice in Canada (and elsewhere) of publications only providing favorable reviews; by challenging this system, he simultaneously points out its flaws and magnifies the weight of his own praise as it's bestowed on those he finds deserving.

Provocative and profound but eminently readable, Strike Anywhere demonstrates a critic of high order, unrestrained. It's great fun watching Lista play with matches.

— Foreword Reviews

'As the title of this lively collection of literary essays and reviews, mostly on Canadian poets and poetry, indicates, Michael Lista isn't afraid to group himself in with the bomb-throwers and arsonists, but to limit his critical outlook to any one label is misleading. Lista isn't a "negative" critic so much as a passionate one, enthusiastic in both his likes and dislikes.

'This is essential, since book reviews and most literary essays are by their nature ephemeral and it's only their passion, personality and intelligence that makes the best of them worth revisiting. Lista's writing has all of these qualities, delivered in a confident, categorical voice that speaks in absolutes but which never comes across as pompous or affected. Instead, his observations are grounded in earthy, humorous language and anecdotes (his trip to the Dante house museum in Florence being a good example). If there's a fault it's that the pieces here are so short we never get to see Lista show what he can do beyond quick takes.'

— Toronto Star

'Lista's [criticism is] at least articulate and consistent with his theory of what poetry should be, and it offers a place to have an ongoing conversation about writers and their writing. In other words, it does just what good criticism should do. It may be controversial to some, but it really shouldn't be.'

— Bookshelf.ca

'Lista's essays and articles in Strike Anywhere, which he jointly calls "arsons," span the space between lighting a fire and burning something down.... Lista clearly thrives when he is fired up; he shines when he takes risks and writes skeptically.'

— Canadian Literature

'...As for his being too negative, why am I suddenly so invested in Canadian poetry? I filled the book's dust cover with notes of the titles of poetry collections and criticism I'd now like to read thanks to Lista's interpretations, his apt references to seminal works, and admired his knack for interesting phrasing as a poet writing about poetry. Until now, reviews about Canadian works in Canadian publications have rarely led to my buying a book; saying imprecise things in a positive tone fails to inspire as much as it doesn't injure. The positive review conspiracy alienated me as a potential reader without my knowing it.'

— Broken Pencil

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