You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada

You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada

by James Pollock

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From critic and poet James Pollock comes You Are Here, an incisive collection of essays that explore the newer, more cosmopolitan and technically sophisticated generation of Canadian poets.


From critic and poet James Pollock comes You Are Here, an incisive collection of essays that explore the newer, more cosmopolitan and technically sophisticated generation of Canadian poets.

Editorial Reviews

The Urge: Reviewing New Canadian Poetry - Stewart Cole
'Pollock's book – though it certainly espouses its aesthetic ideals with a firmness that will rankle with both those whose poetics stand at odds with them and, more moderately, those less willing to make hard-and-fast evaluative judgments – provides both a series of unusually nuanced and intelligent takes on individual poets and volumes and, taken as a whole, an erudite accounting of Canadian poetic identity in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries ... I agree with most of Pollock's guiding premises [because of] ... his extraordinary rigour, the meticulousness with which, in his finest critical moments, he substantiates his strong claims with argumentation so textured and intelligent that one feels dared to disagree.'
Brian Palmu
'[I]ts both a relief and a delight to encounter James Pollock's recent You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada, which puts the evaluative approach front and centre. Ultimately, it's the critic's job to sift and weigh, to consider, and to judge. Pollock takes great care in this sequence from reading to writing, and the force of his conclusions, always nuanced, are made plain, and backed by a hefty portion of core citation.'
ForeWord Reviews - Patty Comeau
You Are Here

Essays argue for good Canadian poetry, rather than poetry written for ideological or nationalist purposes.

"The virtues of good critical reading," writes James Pollock, are "openness, attentiveness, patience, critical intelligence—and love." You Are Here, a collection of essays on the contemporary Canadian landscape, aptly embodies these virtues and displays Pollock as an honest and heartfelt contributor to the national poetry's topographical record.

Appearing in three parts, You Are Here draws together several of Pollock's previously published critical essays and new writing designed to consider "poetic value" in resistance against the "claustrophobic . . . provincial isolation" of his experiences with Canadian literary poetics. He attacks and deconstructs poetry he deems to be written more for ideological or expressivist/experimental purposes (the work of Fred Wah and bpNichol, for example) and illustrates the merits of lesser-known Canadian poets who might more satisfactorily represent the nation's literature on the global canonical map. Jeffery Donaldson, to whose poem the book's title refers, is a favorite.

Working from a tradition firmly established by institutional education in English, and writing from an authority granted by the hierarchies of canonical poetics founded in the aesthetics deemed worthy by generations of students and writers of poetry in the Western tradition (and thus, performing a very Canadian feat of charting territory that is both nationalist and in a constant colonial process), the author earnestly adopts the position of the "honest judge" he desires both for writers and readers of poetry.

Arguing repeatedly and with a great deal of passion for such honesty and the production of evidence for all claims made about the quality of other poets' work, Pollock has also evaluated several of the most recently published collections of poetry meant to establish a national canon. In so doing, Pollock occasionally falls into the trap set by his critical predecessors in spending a significant amount of ink on the decisions made by editors of these anthologies. Those critics, he argues, are not in the business of artful writing but are, as W.J. Keith calls them, "middlemen."

Still, the author remains true to his values, lovingly approaching the efforts of fellow critics to produce useful guides to good poetry produced by writers who are Canadians, and not necessarily writing that was good for Canadians or Canada as a national construct. Pollock carefully and thoughtfully provides evidence to support each evaluation.

The most interesting and artful section of this work is the third, in which Pollock engages with himself directly—publishing a "self-interview" designed to answer any future criticism of his work. Regarding the relationship between poetry as art, the critical environs of its creation, and the terrain its readership must traverse, the author "wants a healthy number of strong, highly persuasive interpretations and judgments," with which the aesthete may symbiotically exist.

You Are Here embodies the modern-day tour book, combining updated maps and personal insight, to provide those interested in the art of poetry new reason to visit Canada.

Geist - Stephen Osborne
'The poetry celebrated in the pages of You Are Here includes the work of Jeffrey Donaldson, Karen Solie, Anne Carson, Daryl Hine, Eric Ormsby and Marlene Cruikshank, each of whom receive illuminating and often brilliant close readings. Pollock situates these poets within the world of poetry rather than merely the world of Canada; the result inspires readers to think along similar lines.'
Arc Poetry Magazine - Chris Jennings
'Pollock is an engaged and well-informed reader who can assess work in a range of poetics, and it succeeds in establishing a consistent approach to criticism and to poetry.'
Canadian Literature - Laura Cameron
'[Pollock] seeks in poetry "a pair of rare and beautiful things: technical mastery, and an authoritative engagement with international poetic traditions" that will be answered by "a clear-eyed, energetic and discerning critical response." He satisfyingly practices what he preaches: manifestly well-read in "the whole history of Western poetry," Pollock writes about poems and their techniques and influences with a patient, thorough adroitness that makes close reading look easy.'

Product Details

Porcupine's Quill, Incorporated
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.75(h) x 0.82(d)

What People are saying about this

T.F. Rigelhof
'You don't have to be as delighted as I am by James Pollock's advocacy of Daryl Hine and Anne Carson as two of the most accomplished of living Canadian poets to recognize You Are Here as the most compelling enquiry into the current state of poetry in this country since Northrop Frye's omnibus surveys in the 1950s. This is a book I've been waiting to read for most of my adult life.'
Jason Guriel
'You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada is an elegant salvo in the ongoing guerilla war against Canada's complacent (and sometimes incompetent) poetry culture. Erudite but always accessible, Pollock is a critic who belongs to the best kind of old school: the sort whose members write clearly, can teach you a thing or two and have the nerve to have an opinion.'

Meet the Author

James Pollock is the author of Sailing to Babylon (Able Muse Press, 2012), which was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award in Poetry, runner-up for the Posner Poetry Book Award, and winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association; and You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine's Quill, 2012), a finalist for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award for a collection of essays. He grew up in Woodstock, Ontario, studied English literature and creative writing at York University in Toronto, and earned a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. He is a professor at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he teaches poetry writing, Canadian culture, and modern and contemporary American poetry. He lives with his wife and son in Madison, Wisconsin.

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