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Poetry Canadian


by (author) Brian Henderson

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Apr 2022
Canadian, Nature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2022
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2022
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they come flying out from under your expectations / and once opened it is rain / and thinking a sandbar / always inventing a different script / never where you left it

This dream book of kaleidoscopic, holographic, mutagenic poems is haunted by the loops, aporias, and entanglements of time – memory, forgetting, oblivion, fortune telling, eternal (or not) returns, timelessness (however that may manifest), beginnings and endings (if indeed there are such things), and other spectral speculations where the intimate and the outward might exchange places.

With imagery both striking and nuanced, and language rich and strange, Brian Henderson encounters a hummingbird, a barred owl, a flood, a trapdoor, a table of contents, an empty rowboat, a nonexistent river, a room made of crystal, a heap of broken furniture, ecocatastrophe, and political debacle in mesmerizing poems that celebrate the strange and vertiginous musics of a kind of memory-ness invoked by the irretrievable.

These poems ask how the future can exist in the now, the now in the past. What is a future? How might we recognize one? And although the now may be completely empty, what are the selves we seem to become? In the archeology of now, unfinishing asks who we might have been – and who we might yet be.

About the author

Brian Henderson has been a Governor General's Award finalist (Nerve Language, Pedlar Press, 2007) and a finalist for the CAA Chalmers Award for Poetry (Sharawadji, Brick Books, 2011). He is the author of eleven previous volumes of poetry, including The Alphamiricon (a deck of visual poem cards) and [OR] (Talonbooks, 2014). Former director of WLU Press, he is now co-editor of the Laurier Poetry Series, and lives with his wife, Charlene Winger, in Grey Highlands, Ontario.

Brian Henderson's profile page

Editorial Reviews

unfinishing is an amazing exercise in attention. Henderson moves with palpable acuity through a metaphysical wrecking yard of time and dream, of images, memories, and sensations, not simply as themselves but as hieroglyphs of a spiritual address. The sunyata of these poems opens the rusted-out doors of perception to ask us what we thought we knew and what we can possibly know.” Fred Wah, author of Music at the Heart of Thinking

“unfinishing is a work of caring intelligence and subtle craft. In Henderson’s hands the things of this world flare; they crash in spanking-new image and metaphor and open in exact rhythms of something more fleeting, more persistent. A shining that takes us by surprise and pleasure.” Dennis Cooley, author of Irene and Gibbous Moon

“Henderson employs the languages of science and philosophy – Eastern and Western – to trace the mind’s engagement with a world composed of time, memory, mortality, and, ultimately, compassion and love. These are the qualities from which ‘the fabric of knowing’ and the fabric of these poems are woven.” Randy Lundy, author of Field Notes for the Self and Blackbird Song

"Brian Henderson meditates on the metaphysics of imagining, of making, in this odyssey of angels and falling shadows; he reminds me of Rilke and then of John Thompson, out on the Tantramar, both poets unfinishing their art, and Henderson reading what the charred-black ink permits: ‘a fleet of crows / silently dipping their black oars in air.’ Always is the poet unfinishing, but what he lets us glimpse of Beauty is – like Paradise – enough.” George Elliott Clarke, author of Where Beauty Survived: An Africadian Memoir

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