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Nature Essays

The Shell of the Tortoise

Four Essays & an Assemblage

by (author) Don McKay

Gaspereau Press Ltd.
Initial publish date
Nov 2011
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2011
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Don McKay is back from another geopoetic field season and has typed up his notes. The resulting essays continue his investigation into the relationship between poetry and wilderness, particularly into the characteristics of metaphor as a tool. “Art occurs whenever a tool attempts to metamorphose into an animal” asserts McKay in an essay on the myth of Hermes and his tortoise-shell lyre. He also takes us to the fossil beds of Newfoundland’s Mistaken Point to consider the fault line between scientific rigour and the poetic capacity for astonishment; over a buggy, boggy portage with Duncan Campbell Scott, surveying Canadian poetry’s complex relationship with wilderness; to the imagined film set of From Here to Infinity to reflect on metaphor’s success in communicating the vastness of deep time, vastness which raw data fails to transmit; and into the Muskwa Assemblage, a poetic landscape which models his assertion that “In poetry, there is no ‘been there, done that’; everything is wilderness.”


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.

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