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Poetry Canadian

the swailing

by (author) Patrick James Errington

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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Here the long edge / of town Low / winter fog / … My breath / my offering We are / our bodies burning

Firmly rooted in fire-haunted landscapes that are at once psychological, emotional, and fiercely real, Patrick Errington’s first collection traces the brittle boundaries between presence and absence, keeping and killing, cruelty and tenderness. In these poems human voices whisper through the natural world – a hand turns on a lamp to extinguish the stars; stones outline a sleeping form; a black eye is a storm cloud. Errington stokes vivid images, formal grace, and subtle humour into the flickers of life that hold fast against unforgiving terrain. Here language functions like a controlled burn, one that could at any moment preserve, perfect, or reduce to ash.

Urgent, resonant to the bone, the swailing burns to the ember-edge of grief, memory, and control to find the wildness, wilderness, and wonder that remain.

About the author

Patrick James Errington is an award-winning poet and recipient of the 2022 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award. Originally from Alberta, he now lives in Scotland, where he teaches at the University of Edinburgh.

Patrick James Errington's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“Patrick Errington's poems are conceived in attention, crafted in grace, and finished in wisdom. ‘They told me as a child to be exact with pain,’ Errington writes, and his poems are true to his credo, leaping wildly through the mysteries of mourning while extending to us the compassionate hand of form. Here is a poet who knows that form and freedom can be one, that sorrow can have an ecstasy within it, that hope might just be ‘loss finding what form it can keep.’ Here, in poem after poem, is truth.” Joseph Fasano, author of The Swallows of Lunetto

“Among the many virtues of Patrick Errington’s impeccably constructed debut is its nearly forensic attention to the minutest particulars: ‘Last night’s rain is pearling the spruce, the timothy.’ What is most astonishing about this exactitude is that rather than dispelling the mystery of being in the world, it fills the reader with renewed marvelling and reverence.” Timothy Donnelly, author of The Problem of the Many

The swailing is a powerful, unstintingly honest exploration of memory, loss, the subtle play of presence and absence, and the risks to selfhood that longing poses, explored in poems shot through with dark humour, urgency, and exemplary precision.” John Burnside, author of Black Cat Bone

“Like figures walking through the smoke from a burning field, Errington’s poems emerge with remarkable definition, clarity, and surprise.” Bronwen Wallace Prize jury citation

“From the beginning of the book to the end, the poet sets the reader’s mind on fire with the luminous language, lyric intensity, and emotional heat of these poems. Patrick Errington’s gorgeous, superbly crafted gems each shimmer under the poet’s fierce gaze, and taken together achieve something grand and powerful.” Jennifer Franklin, author of If Some God Shakes Your House

“Patrick Errington is a poet of loss and of the almost-but-never-quite-found. He shows us how, on the crest of emerging form and its dissolution, meaning flares intensely, piercingly.” Jan Zwicky

“Radiant in its ache and teeming with beauty, the swailing absorbs the haunted geographies of home, forest, field, fire, and snow while delivering a stunning introspection through poems steeped in the winter of their own grief. So many of the last lines blew me away, and I found myself continually returning to savour their longing.” Mai Der Vang, author of Afterland and Yellow Rain

“Gorgeous poems which seem to shimmer on that constantly shifting border between the body and the landscape.” Andrew McMillan, author of pandemonium