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Poetry Canadian

The Muskwa Assemblage

by (author) Don McKay

Gaspereau Press Ltd.
Initial publish date
Feb 2009
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2009
    List Price

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“In August 2006,” writes Don McKay in his introduction, “a group of artists working in different media, and out of a variety of traditions, assembled in the Muskwa-Kechika wilderness of Northern British Columbia. This ‘art-camp’ was organized and managed by Donna Kane and Wayne Sawchuk as a way to direct aesthetic attention to an area–one of very few–in which a wild ecosystem remains virtually intact. This book is my response, presented in a form which, so I hope, fits both the region and the experience.”

Spreading a map of the Muskwa-Kechika out on the kitchen table prior to the trip, McKay studies the region framed by the Toad River in the north and the Tuchodi Lakes to the south. Written on the ground and in retrospect, the assemblage of poetry and prose describes encounters with the landscape and its inhabitants–lichen, caribou, moose, loons, and an unruly pack horse named Bucky.

Taking up naming, ownership, wilderness, deep time–preoccupations that emerged previously in Vis à Vis and Deactivated West 100–McKay brings these notions to bear on a place almost entirely undisturbed by human settlement or industry. The Muskwa Assemblage is about settling into this lack of parameters, writing down and crossing out attempts to define that which goes on happily without definition.

Interspersed with the prose are poems that capture what observation of animals in their habitat has over naming–of reducing to the shorthand of category–and similarly what wilderness retains when human habitation is not the object, where we are simply “beings among beings.”

This book is a smyth-sewn paperback. The text is typeset in Jenson and hand printed from photopolymer plates on Hahnemühle Biblio paper making 48 pages trimmed to 4.5 × 7 inches, bound into a paper cover and enfolded in a letterpress-printed jacket. The jacket paper will be handmade at Gaspereau Press.

About the author

Don McKay has published numerous books of poetry, including Birding, or desire (1983), Night Field (1991), Apparatus (1997), Another Gravity (2000), Strike/Slip (2006), The Muskwa Assemblage (2008), and Paradoxides (2012). He won the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2007, two Governor General's Awards for Poetry (in 1991 and 2000), a National Magazine Award in 1991, the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Poetry (in 1983 and 2013), and the E.J. Pratt Poetry Award in 2013. His books have also appeared on the shortlists for the Governor General's Award for Non-fiction (in 2002), the Governor General's Award for Poetry (in 1983 and 1997), and the Griffin Poetry Prize (in 2001 and 2005). He was named to the Order of Canada in 2009

McKay is also a respected editor, teacher, and scholar. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of New Brunswick, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Sage Hill Writing Experience. He has served as editor and co-publisher of Brick Books since 1975, and from 1991 to 1996, he edited The Fiddlehead. He presently lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Don McKay's profile page

Other titles by Don McKay