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Posted: Wednesday October 31, 2012
Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis is the author of five books of poetry, including the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize winning On the Material (Talonbooks, 2010) and three parts of the on-going “Barricades Project”: Anarchive (New Star, 2005), The Commons (Talonbooks, 2008, 2014), and To the Barricades (Talonbooks, 2013). An activist and social critic, his writing on the Occupy movement is collected in Dispatches from the Occupation (Talonbooks, 2012).

Collis is also the author of two book-length studies, Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks 2007) and Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism (ELS Editions 2006), as well as the editor, with Graham Lyons, of Reading Duncan Reading: Robert Duncan and the Poetics of Derivation (Iowa University Press, 2012). He teaches contemporary poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University, where he was a 2011/12 Jack and Doris Shadbolt Fellow.

LATEST Stephen Collis NEWS

August 2017 : Talon poets in Contemporary Verse 2: Convergence

March 2017 : Once in Blockadia is short-listed for the George Ryga Award!

February 2017 : Once in Blockadia long-listed for the George Ryga Award!

January 2017 : Tomorrow! Stephen Collis on Gabriola Island

October 2016 : Our Fall 2016 books are launched!

October 2016 : Tomorrow: Talon’s big fall launch!

October 2016 : All the Fall 2016 poetry is in the house!

September 2016 : This Sunday: WORD Vancouver!

August 2016 : This fall, hear readings from Once in Blockadia along the Cascadia coast

July 2016 : Fall 2016 previews!

May 2016 : Listen: Full audio recording of our recent Vancouver launch

April 2016 : Photos from our big launch last night

March 2016 : Save the date! April 26 – the Talon Spring 2016 Poetry Launch in Vancouver

September 2015 : Congratulations to Stephen Collis, winner of the 2015 Sterling Prize for Controversy!

June 2015 : Stephen Collis, a Commoner Across the Pond

March 2015 : Rebuild and then Get Out

November 2014 : Tomorrow in Vancouver! Help Raise Legal Defence Funds for Protestors on Burnaby Mountain

November 2014 : Launched! Our Fall 2014 “Septuplets”

November 2014 : T-Minus One Week to Talon’s Fall 2014 Launch!

October 2013 : Vancouver Writers Fest Begins Today!

October 2013 : Talon Authors Unite at WORD Vancouver

August 2013 : Lineup Announcement! Vancouver Writers Fest 2013 (October)


Winner of the 2015 Nora and Ted Sterling Prize in Support of Controversy


Once in Blockadia

2017 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature (Shortlisted)


On the Material

Winner of the 2011 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize


Once in Blockadia

"Collis’s book moves beyond the scale of both Williams’s man/city and Ginsburg’s generation/nation to bring the bioregion into deep focus as both place (actually inhabited) and space (increasingly uninhabitable). Collis’s strength as a poet is his ability to hold in simultaneous suspension the descriptions of particular lifeforms and of sprawling, capitalist ecocidal apparatus … The poetic “doing” Collis does in Blockadia is already more thoroughly embedded in bioregion than is most contemporary ecopoetry. It is more fluid in its shifts of time, scale, and system, and readier to spill off the page into practice."
Boston Review

“Collis is mindful of the entwined nature of historical events and our emotional attachments to the places that we share or defend. … Once in Blockadia is a valuable book for allies, poets, and scholars … Collis’ work represents a nascent ecopoetics of place for the twenty-first century. I was immediately touched by it; my first impulse was to recommend it to close friends and to colleagues invested in the troublesome and shifting language of emplacement.”
—William V. Lombardi, for Canadian Literature

“This book lives in Realms Ecological and is … somewhat punk about it. Once in Blockadia is uniform in concern, but not in technique or style. … These are militantly humane texts about climate disaster … Collis is working with the postmodern lyric. His most common syntactical gambit is a jaunty, conversational line that is then crashed into by one boiled down, deeply overstressed. We bounce along then jam: jerk: stick: recommence. It’s a lively, effective tactic. … A sad, angry, critical, noble book is Blockadia.”
Contemporary Verse 2

Once in Blockadia is the anvil we’ve been waiting for. Political and ecological, civil and riotous, Stephen Collis has crafted work demonstrative of a poetic system that contends beautifully all the damning systems around us.”
—Yellow Rabbits

“One of the most striking examples of political poetry I’ve seen in a while. … [Once in Blockadia] could easily be considered his strongest collection to date … While the three volumes (to date) that have made up his ongoing “Barricades project” – Anarchive (New Star, 2005), The Commons (Talonbooks, 2008/2014), and To the Barricades (Talonbooks, 2013) – have cohered and articulated language as an element of social action, Once in Blockadia is denser and more focused, composed as much as a cudgel and a call-to-action as a communique on or consequence of the Trans Mountain pipeline.”
—rob mclennan


The Commons

“Words like beauty, pleasure, and liberty do not sound hackneyed. Instead, their writing sounds synonymous with persistence. Collis is slightly off-step/beat, just out of range of any comfortable assumption, and a good shuffle away from clear understanding. This is not poetry that leads, but includes. It is a welcome philosophical divergence in popular culture.”
Prairie Fire Review of Books


To the Barricades

“Barricades are a type of resistance and, depending on who’s throwing them up, an act of creativity as well as control. Collis uses brush-by, glint, examination-in-perspective, and roundabout reconnaissance to measure our times … Unafraid of the truth and unafraid to opine on the effect of truth, Collis has emerged as one of Canada’s finest writers. Like climate change and tar sands, like the decimation of honey bees with Neonicotinoid, like the essence of Edward Snowden’s revelations, we ignore Collis’s words at our own peril.” ARC Poetry

“What is not a chronicle of scuffling feet over rebellious streets, what is not a meditation on spontaneous committee work, not a study of occupying civic spaces, not an expression of cascading revolutionary moments, what is the ‘not’ of all that, but that is still forged from all that? It is precisely this swirling charybdis of emotive power that To the Barricades ventures to traverse, harnessing the potential of collective transformation. Continuously in danger of being recouped and serialized by topic and theme, genre, and discourse, in the crosshairs of being literaturized, Collis keeps the forms of social address fluid, stealthy, street-smart, and on the run. Like Neruda’s Canto General, To the Barricades succeeds in marshalling forth ‘cities of words’ as yet un-citied. These lines are graffitiable.” – Rodrigo Toscano


Dispatches from the Occupation

“English professor and Vancouver Occupier Stephen Collis offers up a unique and heartfelt window into the rise and fall – or more accurately, transformation – of the Occupy movement. […] This personal and locally grounded narrative is where the book makes real contribution. Other texts have emerged analyzing the global Occupy movement … but Collis’s level of involvement and embeddedness in Vancouver makes for a unique journey for the reader, as does its rather lyrical style. As such, I can see students of social movements and politics, as well as those interested in activism more generally, finding much to metabolize and debate within its pages.”
– Canadian Literature


On the Material

“Collis’s poetry draws a direct line from Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra….[He] is a force, a vector in modern Canadian Poetry. He writes in front of opinion, but never too far in front to lose engagement…. Words like beauty, pleasure, and liberty do not sound hackneyed. Instead, their writing sounds synonymous with persistence.”
Prairie Fire


Phyllis Webb and the Common Good

“Collis is himself a poet and falls into that Canadian tradition of talented creative writers – Atwood, Lee, Ondaatje – that also write some of our finest criticism.”
Vallum Magazine

“As much about Webb as about the cultural and political milieu of her time, this book is necessary reading for anyone interested in Canadian poetry and the ethics of writing as criticism.”
Smaro Kamboureli

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