Almost IslandsFront Cover

ISBN: 9781772012071 | paperback / softback

$24.95 | 256 pages | Pub. Date: 2018
5.5 W × 8.5 H × 1 D inches
Non-Fiction | Frontlist | Bisac: BIO007000
ISBN 13: 9781772012071 | Rights: WORLD

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

By Stephen Collis

Stephen Collis is the author of six books of poetry, including the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize–winning On the Material (Talonbooks, 2010). His memoir, Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten, was published by Talonbooks in 2018. He teaches contemporary poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University. Collis was the 2019 recipient of the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize, which is given to a mid-career poet in recognition of a remarkable body of work, and in anticipation of future contributions to Canadian poetry.

Read more about Stephen Collis


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news | 2018-11-07
Stephen Collis launches Almost Islands in Vancouver!

…but no fear – he has his very own launch for Almost Islands coming up this Friday, November 9, at Massy Books … in Vancouver. Almost Islands is a powerfully introspective memoir of the … end of writing. Join Stephen for the launch of Almost Islands: Friday, November 9, 2018 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Massy …


news | 2018-09-18
Talonbooks Fall Poetry Launch in Vancouver

…and the Monochrome ), Stephen Collis (from Almost Islands ), and Christine Stewart (from Treaty 6 Deixis ). …


news | 2018-09-05
The first of our Fall list: Almost Islands and Around Her

…first of our Fall books have arrived in house! Almost Islands is a powerful memoir of Stephen Collis’s … wonderful.” Order your copies of Almost Islands and Around Her today! …