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Poetry Canadian

The Whole Singing Ocean

by (author) Jessica Moore

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Canadian, Women Authors, Nature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

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Part long poem, part investigation, this true story begins with a whale encounter and then dives into the affair of the École en bateau, a French countercultural school aboard a boat. The École was based on the ideals of ’68, but also twisted ideas about child psychology, Foucault’s philosophy and an abolition of the separation between adults and children. As more troubling details are revealed, the text touches on memory, trauma and environmental grief, ultimately leading to buried echoes from the author’s own life and family history.

At the dark heart of The Whole Singing Ocean is the question: How is it possible to hold two things—rapture and pain—at once?

About the author

Jessica Moore is the author of a collection of poems, Everything, now (Brick Books, 2012), and the translator for Mend the Living (Talonbooks, 2016), a translation of the novel by Maylis de Kerangal, which was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker International Prize and won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2017. Moore’s writing has also appeared recently in BOMB, Canadian Art, Arc, CV2, The New Quarterly, Carousel, The Volta and The Antigonish Review. Moore lives in Toronto, ON.

Jessica Moore's profile page


  • Long-listed, Raymond Souster Award: Best Book by a League of Canadian Poets member

Editorial Reviews

The Whole Singing Ocean is a narrative poem of immensities rising from the deep: whales, microplastics, acoustic smog, grief, rapture, abuse. This book does the deep and winding work, the honest and sometimes horrifying, always courageous work of healing. Like the long lines of whale songs, Moore’s polyvocal, lyric tale arrives in “pulses and pings and clicks of rhythm / rapturous and piercing at once.” Where the glittering eye of the ancient mariner holds the wedding guest rapt, this tale issues from the massive eye of a whale. This is a gorgeous book.

Erin Robinsong

The Whole Singing Ocean is an evocative and challenging read.

The Miramichi Reader

The rhythms of Moore’s poetry, the quiet humour of her dexterous mind, and her brave questioning quickly won my trust. The Whole Singing Ocean is a gorgeous music and an act of daring listening to what we know but don’t want to know. It left me with a feeling of rare freedom.

The New Quarterly

Lush, clear-eyed and insightful... a luminous poem.

Eleanor Wachtel

These poems swirl together like plastic refuse in the ocean, where a whale is said to rise “like an arpeggio from the dark.” Readers will find this a fascinating and occasionally uneasy collection that captures the friction in beauty and transgressions.

Publisher’s Weekly, March 2021

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