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Poetry Canadian

The Salmon Shanties

A Cascadian Song Cycle

by (author) Harold Rhenisch

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2024
Canadian, Places, Nature, Indigenous
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    Publish Date
    Sep 2024
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    Sep 2024
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Harold Rhenisch’s poems balance the settler and Indigenous experiences of land and water in the Pacific Northwest

A collection of shanties (songs) laid out in couplets that move between English and Chinook Wawa, The Salmon Shanties celebrates a poetic tradition deeply rooted on the West Coast. Harold Rhenisch explores memories of people, place, and of returning home, speaking the land’s names as a music of its own and creating a series of aural maps.

Imbued with rhythms of Secwepemc grass dances, the colloquial chatter of the Canadian poet Al Purdy, and the voice of poet and historian Charles Lillard, Rhenisch’s work sings of roots to the land lifted up by the sea into the sky—as if Ezra Pound had sung of Cascadia instead of Europe.

Do not be in Mareuil and Périgeux tonight; it is 1912 no longer.
We, the land’s singers, are walking the star road on the long way home
with the crickets of a July evening above Tuc el Nuit,
the burrowing owls of N’kmp,
and the long memories of the dwarf shrews of Nighthawk.
Breath cannot be denied. Poh cannot be forsaken. Ezra, shantie./p.

About the author

Harold Rhenisch is an award-winning poet, critic, and cultural commentator. His awards include the Confederation Poetry Prize in 1991 and the BC #38: Yukon Community Newspapers Association Award for Best Arts and Culture Writing in 1996. He is a seven-time runner-up for the CBC/Tilden/Saturday Night Literary Contest. In 2005, he won the ARC Magazine Critics Desk Award for best long poetry review and the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize for "Abandon." He won this prize again in 2007 for "The Bone Yard." His non-fiction book Tom Thomson's Shack was short-listed for two BC Book Prizes in 2000. For its sequel, The Wolves at Evelyn, he won the 2007 George Ryga Award for Social Responsibility in Literature. He is the author of 32 books of poetry, fiction, biography and essays and choreographed Richard Rathwell’s Human Nation for the paper stage. Along with the Norwegian Olav Hauge, he is one of the two poets in the world who learned to write and edit poems by pruning fruit trees, an experience documented in his The Tree Whisperer (Gaspereau, 2021). A direct heir of Bertolt Brecht’s theater, through the dissident playwright and novelist Stefan Schütz, whose radio play Peyote he translated and published, he has invented a theatrical set of cross-genre literary interventions. He has secretly edited and mentored over a hundred writers in the hinterlands of Canada unserved by its university and publishing system and is currently writing a transcultural natural history curriculum and a history of British Columbia centred in the Indian Wars of the American West.

Harold Rhenisch's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Harold Rhenisch is one of Canada’s finest poets.”—Nancy Holmes

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