Don McKay, Strike/Slip

First: it's not McKay like governmental Peter, but McKai. No, I don't know the reason for the pronunciation, but it's not accent, or not his any longer -- you can listen to him read from his previous book Camber here (once you get past the announcer's length prologue).

Strike/Slip is a really good book of poetry. I'm going to have to see how it ends up in my little pantheon, once I dwell in memories of it for a while, but it's good stuff. There are some passages that seem more precious than they need to be, unnecessarily poetical, but there are also some gems. Much of it is addressed to birds or stone or rock, or about birds or stone or rock, and the materiality of it pleased me greatly.

Take "Apostrophe," for example, which is a little poem addressed to a basalt formation. The speaker comes to this chunk of rock expecting to find something to say to it, all learned and poet-cool, but the material experience overwhelms his words. His textbook learning falls away before the age and permanence and inscrutability of basalt:
Instead I stood there,
snubbed, mostly water, growing younger
at a rate my poor life can't allow. (22-24)
This is what I think of as Good Stuff Indeed, especially that apologetic but physiologically accurate "mostly water." I'm a little surprised that McKay won the $50K Griffin prize for this book, but only a little. I certainly didn't prefer the selections the Griffin site gave for the other nominees; I do have Priscilla Uppal's nominated Ontological Necessities, and I'm OK that it didn't go to her, as much as I'm sure she could have used the money.

I'm a small man. I'm delighted, as always, just to find someone writing something I understand other than merely intellectually.


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