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Wednesday January 5, 2011 in Books
With breathtaking virtuosity, Garry Thomas Morse sets out to recover the appropriated, stolen and scattered world of his ancestral people from Alert Bay to Quadra Island to Vancouver, retracing Captain Vancouver’s original sailing route. These poems draw upon both written history and oral tradition to reflect all of the respective stories of the community, which vocally weave in and out of the dialogics of the text.
A dramatic symphony of many voices, Discovery Passages uncovers the political, commercial, intellectual and cultural subtexts of the Native language ban, the potlatch ban and the confiscation and sale of Aboriginal artifacts to museums by Indian agents, and how these actions affected the lives of both Native and non-Native inhabitants of the region. This displacement of language and artifacts reverberated as a profound cultural disjuncture on a personal level for the author’s people, the Kwakwaka’wakw, as their family and tribal possessions became at once both museum artifacts and a continuation of the tradition of memory through another language. Morse’s continuous poetic dialogue of “discovery” and “recovery” reaches as far as the Lenape, the original Native inhabitants of Mannahatta in what is now known as New York, and on across the Atlantic in pursuit of the European roots of the “Voyages of Discovery” in the works of Sappho, Socrates, Virgil and Frazer’s The Golden Bough, only to reappear on the American continent to find their psychotic apotheosis in the poetry of Duncan Campbell Scott.
With tales of Chiefs Billy Assu, Harry Assu and James Sewid; the family story “The Young Healer”; and transformed passages from Whitman, Pound, Williams and Bowering, Discovery Passages links Kwakwaka’wakw traditions of the past with contemporary poetic tradition in B.C. that encompasses the entire scope of relations between oral and vocal tradition, ancient ritual, historical contextuality and our continuing rites.
ISBN 13: 9780889226609 | ISBN 10: 889226601
6 W x 9 H inches | 128 pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Backlist | Poetry | Bisac: POE011000, POE000000
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Discovery Passages..a finalist for the Governor-General’s Award in 2011, and rightly so: It is a striking, radical work, one that presages Idle No More, for these poems explore the contest between settler-state culture and language and the attempts of First Nations to preserve their own traditions..[t]hese poems are smart, masterful, necessary.”
— The Chronicle Herald
“Like Wayde Compton’s 49th Parallel Psalm (1999) and Rita Wong’s forage (2007), Discovery Passages both extends and revises a literary history of the West Coast. Morse challenges the official historical record while indicating with poetic form his connection to a regional tradition of avant-garde poetics represented by Spicer, Robert Duncan, and Robin Blaser, especially, but also by Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Meredith Quartermain, Lisa Robertson, and others.”
— The Goose
“This is a rich and varied book, combining poetic lyric with elements of visual, sound, concrete and documentary poetry..Morse enacts a very real forensic case in this book, deftly gathering and presenting the evidence of crimes against the Kwakwaka’wakw people and their language and culture.”
— The Globe and Mail
“In an effort to assimilate the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, the government of Canada passed a law in 1885 banning the potlatch custom, and much of Morse’s volume is dedicated to articulating the impact of this offence on the identity of his ancestors..[t]o Morse, I give an award for reclaiming a lost history, and for completing the journey from loss to articulation to poetry.”
— The Montreal Gazette
“With Discovery Passages Garry Thomas Morse has remained true to what U.S. poet Gary Snyder has called the work of poetry: seriousness, commitment to craft, and no bulls—-, no backing away from any of the challenges that are offered to you.”
— The Vancouver Sun
“Morse is a master of tonal balance, a virtuoso composer with an ear for epic contrast, and a poet of complexly binary intertexts for whom an envoi leads to no single destination.”
— Canadian Literature
“ Discovery Passages is far too rich a mélange to be fully appreciated in a single reading. A super kind of bricolage, it’s a cornucopia of gifts from Garry Thomas Morse’s personal potlatch that readers will accept with deep gratitude.”
— Eclectic Ruckus
“ Discovery Passages is a vital cross-cultural work, urgent in both its anger and its celebration. Morse’s supple voice lifts off the page while the stripped-down quotes in the documentary poem are presented in all their damning evidence, no further comment necessary. His longer poem ‘Wak’es’ with its literary echoes, is the most ironically intelligent statement I’ve read on cultural theft.”
— Daphne Marlatt
“Take Garry Thomas Morse’s Discovery Passages, for example. For the poet, the book represents a kind of breakthrough; but, his work has been on my radar for so long, I cannot imagine our poetry without it; and, sans façon, I believe we are all richer for its existence.”
— Judith Fitzgerald
“Adept, stunning, startling, and necessary, Discovery Passages performs an uncanny operation on the archives, reactivating some stories and decommissioning others so that we can breathe more fully today. This poetic excavation of the injustice inflicted on the Kwakwaka’wakw people is insightful, tender, and brutal in its scope. Here, "language is, portaging across/ global debris…" – gleaning the trash of history to make poetry that takes back what was stolen from Morse’s ancestors. This book includes the funniest dressing down of Duncan Campbell Scott I have ever read, snatching dignity away from colonial thieves and restoring it back into the communities where it belongs.”
— Rita Wong
“These are passages planked by images of island life. Waves of words spoken by elders flood the poems, which crash into excerpts of Indian Affairs policies and paternalistic state documents. There are 500 years and 500 lines of unspeakable anguish but there is also a knowing, smiling resistance. Morse’s words are rhythmic as wild salmon, departing to explore a wider ocean but always coming back home.”
— Russell Wallace
Finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry
Finalist for the 2012 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize
One of the Top Ten Poetry Collections of 2011 (Globe and Mail)
One of the Best Ten Aboriginal Books from the past decade (2012, CBC – 8th Fire).
About the ContributorsGarry Thomas Morse
Garry Thomas Morse has had two books of poetry published by LINEbooks – Transversals for Orpheus (2006) and Streams (2007) – and three collections of fiction published by Talonbooks – Death in Vancouver (2009), Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus (2012), and Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour, the latter two of which make up two of three books in The Chaos! Quincunx series. Talon has also published two books of Morse’s poetry, After Jack (2010) and Discovery Passages (2011), which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program; and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.