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Monday May 7, 2018 in Books
_Almost Islands _ is a powerfully introspective memoir of the author’s friendship with legendary Canadian poet Phyllis Webb – now in her nineties and long enveloped in silence – and his regular trips to see her. It is an extended meditation on literary ambition and failure, poetry and politics, choice and chance, location, colonization, and climate change – the struggle that is writing, and the end of writing.
I go to see her because she is poetry’s old crone and I am seeking. I go to her – usually three, four times a year – because it is a small ministration I can perform for her, and for her poetry, as she slowly reaches into the finite – a long, slow embrace of nothing … If living is a process of learning how to die, then is writing a process of learning how to stop writing? I go in search of lost words, in search of the hoped-for defence against the loss of words, drawn to the shaping sounds of fate and mortality.
A meticulous collection of poetic, political, and philosophical digressions, Almost Islands weaves numerous themes together. At its crux lies a literary project: to build upon and extend Webb’s exposition of a “poetic” sense of the political, by proposing a political agent, the “Biotariat,” a government of Life, that is both human and more than human – arrived at after following as many pathways as possible through Webb’s own reading and thought. Ultimately, Almost Islands is a book obsessed with the problem of Webb’s not writing, and the implications of this for a writer like Collis who, in his own words, may be writing “too much” – as well as the wider social, political, and world-historical implications of withdrawal, self-silencing, and not-doing.
ISBN 13: 9781772012071 | ISBN 10:
8.5 W x 5.5 H inches | 208 pages
24.95 CAN / 24.95 US
Frontlist | Non-Fiction
About the ContributorsStephen 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).
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.