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Don McKay (CA)

Shell of the Tortoise, The

Shell of the Tortoise, The

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Don McKay is back from another geopoetic field season and has typed up his notes. The resulting essays continue his investigation into the relationship between poetry and wilderness, particularly into the characteristics of metaphor as a tool. “Art occurs whenever a tool attempts to metamorphose into an animal” asserts McKay in an essay on the myth of Hermes and his tortoise-shell lyre. He also takes us to the fossil beds of Newfoundland’s Mistaken Point to consider the fault line between scientific rigour and the poetic capacity for astonishment; over a buggy, boggy portage with Duncan Campbell Scott, surveying Canadian poetry’s complex relationship with wilderness; to the imagined film set of From Here to Infinity to reflect on metaphor’s success in communicating the vastness of deep time, vastness which raw data fails to transmit; and into the Muskwa Assemblage, a poetic landscape which models his assertion that “In poetry, there is no ‘been there, done that’; everything is wilderness.”

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Don McKay is a poet, teacher, and editor. He has published more than a dozen books in a career that spans five decades. He has twice won the Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry, and won the Griffin Poetry Prize for Strike/Slip in 2007. His previous essay collections include the GG-shortlisted Vis à Vis: Field Notes on Poetry & Wilderness, Deactivated West 100, and The Shell of the Tortoise, winner of the 2011 BMO Winterset Award. McKay lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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