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Poetry Canadian

What Your Hands Have Done

by (author) Chris Bailey

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2018
Canadian, Family, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2018
    List Price

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What Your Hands Have Done looks at how life spent in a close-knit fishing family in rural Prince Edward Island marks a person. The book is rooted in PEI but moves from there to Toronto where the malaise of life proves to be unbound to the sameness of small-town days spent hauling gear on the Atlantic or toiling in rust-red potato fields.

Bailey examines the world around him from the inside, observing the minute to account for the vast. These poems are laid bare and free of ornament, revealing the hard-won wisdom just below the surface:

She was there, cooked for you. Helped clean

the mess you’d become from decades

spent on your father’s ocean hauling lobsters

from its depths, gulping down the sea air.

Even when the booze was too much,

she knew you were more than the vomit

caked to your shirt. Less than confessions

made beneath the red summer moon.

About the author

Chris Bailey is a fisherman from North Lake, Prince Edward Island, and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph. He is a recipient of the Milton Acorn Award for Poetry and his writing has appeared in UPEIArts ReviewThe Puritan’s Town Crier and on CBC Radio. Bailey now lives in Toronto where he is the managing editor of Villamere: the lowbrow magazine of high-end CanLit.

Chris Bailey's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Fifty years after Alistair MacLeod honoured and elegized that world in “The Boat,” Bailey summons the reality of that life in the twenty-first century, in language both visceral and eloquent. This is no quaint voice from the Land of Anne. Suffused with our era’s geist and angst, which have penetrated to the rural periphery, Bailey is a sharp-eyed, clarion-voiced witness in his crow’s nest. This book is a spy-glass you’ll want to glue your eye to.

Richard Lemm

Chris Bailey canvasses easily—adroitly—that difficult, East Coast world of hardscrabble, hard-luck ports and hard-living, hard-drinking fishers, the epicureans of cynicism and the aesthetes of brutalism. This dominion’s one where funerals are festive and the clear-eyed must enjoy adultery and the clear-headed must tolerate suicide. Think E.J. Pratt meets Charles Bukowski.

George Elliott Clarke

Bailey’s work explores questions of identity: family and roots—mostly working class—character portraits and poems of romance. There’s much to admire in these short, clean stanzas and the landscape that shines through behind them—its pine trees and cold rain, its lobster and herring gear, its dark sky and restless ocean.

Joseph Millar

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