Almost Islands Front Cover

Paperback / softback
ISBN: 9781772012071
Pages: 256
Pub. Date: September 6 2018
Dimensions: 8.5" x 5.5" x 0.875"
Rights: Available: WORLD
Categories
Non-Fiction / BIO001000

  • BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary Figures
  • BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Artists, Architects, Photographers
  • DRAMA / Canadian
  • FICTION / Literary
  • FICTION / LGBTQ+ / Lesbian
  • DRAMA / Indigenous Peoples in the Americas
  • POETRY / Canadian
  • POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Animals & Nature
  • POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Political &

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Almost Islands
Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten
By Stephen Collis

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.

"My first read of [Almost Islands] was like a surprise party. With the turn of every page, I found another friend: Montaigne, Geoff Dyer, W. G. Sebald, Thoreau, C. D. Wright, Susan Howe, et alia."—Poetry NorthWest