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Don McKay has published 10 previous works of poetry. He is the winner of two Governor General’s Literary Awards for Poetry for Night Field (1991) and Another Gravity (2000). He has been shortlisted twice for the Griffin Poetry Prize, first in 2001 for Another Gravity and in 2005 for Camber: Selected Poems, which was also named a Globe and Mail Notable Book of the Year. McKay’s 2006 collection, Strike/Slipwon the 2007 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize. This volume was also awarded the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Don McKay lives in British Columbia, Canada.

Strike/Slip

McClelland & Stewart
2007 Winner
Canada
Shortlisted in:

Judges’ Citation

Don McKay’s journey through closely observed places and creatures not only brings them alive with great panache, it explores a more humane way of living on earth…

Don McKay’s journey through closely observed places and creatures not only brings them alive with great panache, it explores a more humane way of living on earth, ‘bereft and happy, my whole mind/applauding.’ These wonderfully bittersweet poems establish a rich vocabulary of dwelling – have ‘lift and drag,’ of homing and leaving home. The result is a playful yet resonant microcosm, charted with virtuosity and love.

Judges’ Citation

Music is a word often associated with McKay’s poetry, and this selection of work covering three decades is a triumph of lyricism and linguistic orchestration.

Music is a word often associated with McKay’s poetry, and this selection of work covering three decades is a triumph of lyricism and linguistic orchestration. McKay displays an extraordinary capacity for submitting to and revelling in the musical phrases and cadences of language while never coming loose from meaning and sense. So simultaneously his poems succeed at both the intellectual and the instinctive level. He is an essential poet of our time in as much as he describes our deep, complex and vital relationship with the planet, a relationship which seems so close to breakdown. His gift, it seems, is as natural and as the living world he so frequently chooses to write of, and his poems as airborne and acrobatic as the birds which populate the vast skies and landscapes of his imagination.

Judges’ Citation

In Strike/Slip, Don McKay walks us out to the uncertain ground between the known and unknown, between the names we have given things and things as they are.

In Strike/Slip, Don McKay walks us out to the uncertain ground between the known and unknown, between the names we have given things and things as they are. This is wonder’s territory, and from within it McKay considers a time ‘before mind or math’ before rock, in human hands, turned over in the mind, becomes stone. The poems confront the strangeness and inadequacy of using language to address the point at which language fails – the point where, ‘wild and incompetent, / you have no house’ – and suggest that in such an unsettled state we might truly pay attention. In McKay’s work, attention is the foundation of a poetics and an ethics in which otherness is respected, indeed cherished, for its ability to unhouse. But Strike/Slip also speaks to the intimacy of our relationships with time. How, at once metaphysical, practical, and intuitive, the weight of it is thought, felt in the body, and discerned in the landscape as sediment and growth, rust and erosion. McKay’s meditations on time’s evidence acquire a similar heft, proposing, in their discipline of mind and generosity of spirit, a way to be at home in the world. A book of patience, courage, and quiet eloquence, Strike/Slip manifests, like quartz, ‘Some act of pure attention … simple, naked, perilously perfect’.