Shortlisted for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award!
Finalist for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize!
Tar Swan is a multi-voiced reckoning that surveys the mythos of the Alberta oil sands with an approach that is both lyrical and experimental. The poems feature four voices: an oil sands developer, his plant mechanic, an archaeologist excavating the remains of the operation in the present day, and a mythical swan. David Martin's debut collection is comprised of expansive and richly written poems, built on a lore-laden language, which explore the human and environmental cost of drawing too much from the land. As the three humans come into contact with the otherworldly swan, the voices bubble and churn together, and what is distilled is a psychological breakdown paralleling the toll taken on the earth.
"In Tar Swan, David Martin has composed a quartet of exuberant and unpredictable voices on an urgent contemporary theme for the age of climate change. The eponymous swan is a 'single cygnet' who sings and leaves traces that now 'drive your cars' as well as the myths that make the Alberta Tar Sands possible. Martin explores those myths in gritty, sensual, and historically vivid language. This ambitious debut immerses us in the tar of archaeology and the bite of our own environmental dilemma, all with 'a master's sprezzatura form.'"
~ Jurors of the 2019 Raymond Souster Award
"Martin's complex collection criticizes the hubristic development of the tar sands and unearths fixed forms to reckon with environmental change."
~ Kait Pinder, Canadian Literature"Martin's troubling of the history of the tar sands in this impressive first poetry collection invites more historical and creative work in this vein."
~ Melanie Dennis Unrau, The Goose
"This is a remarkable collection..."
~ Anne Burke, The Prairie Journal