Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Poetry Canadian



by (author) Chris Banks

Nightwood Editions
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Alternator blends catastrophe and consciousness, modern living and past transgressions, off-kilter imagery and the “hidden room” of the unsayable to construct a polyphonic triumph. Chris Banks threads fire through the eye of his imagination, and the product is these poems born of whole cloth: surrealist meditations, modern ghazals and powerful narrative sonnets that are both alive and burning.

About the author

Chris Banks is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Midlife Action Figure (ECW Press, 2019). His first full-length collection, Bonfires (Nightwood Editions, 2003) was awarded the Jack Chalmers Award for Poetry by the Canadian Authors’ Association in 2004. Bonfires was also a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. His poetry has appeared in The New Quarterly, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Antigonish Review, Event, The Malahat Review, GRIFFEL, American Poetry Journal, PRISM International, among other publications. He lives in Waterloo, Ontario.

Chris Banks' profile page

Editorial Reviews

“The poems in Chris Banks’s Alternator are cosmic events. They sizzle with ingenuity and throb with jaw-dropping insight; they are witty yet tender, equal parts playful and profound. “Once I wished to be a mountain, / but instead I grew up to be a gnome,” the speaker says. Me too! Banks’s signature verve is at full throttle in this new collection but Alternator does more than showcase a writer at the zenith of their craft. From podcasts to Plato, Home Depot to the Versailles of the human heart, these achingly vital poems elevate longing without losing sight of the transcendent: “The sublime is the first breath / of fresh air one breathes after some play, or novel, or sunset / tears the vacuum seal of your spirit wide open.” I am in awe of Chris Banks, his poetic alchemy. The world needs this book. Alternator is a tour de force.”

Lara Egger, author of <em>How to Love Everyone and Almost Get Away With It</em>

“‘Call me a religious syncretist,’ writes Chris Banks, ‘but let’s place the Romantics / and the Surrealists in a blender.’ So it is we find in his stunning new collection, Alternator, poems of not only the terrible beauties and charms of acrobatic figure and juxtaposition, but also a rare wit made memorable by a sharpness of music and precision of thought. His is an aesthetics of dialectical corrections, highly conscious and unconscious by turns, haunted by impermanence, humanized by play, quick to interrogate the artifice of its own devices that nonetheless offer a necessary light. Here, the disruptive instincts of the ironist serve a longing for inclusivity of vision, while holding any pretense of conclusive arrival at a distance. But, as a gathering of surprises, perhaps most surprising of all is how the arc of the whole bends toward a breed of candour, however masked, a deep dive that validates the healing power of negative capability and imaginative resilience in the face of heartbreak and regret. A deeply courageous, capacious book.”

Bruce Bond, author of <em>Behemoth</em>, winner of the 2021 New Criterion Poetry Prize

“In Alternator, Chris Banks is speaking directly to what is absolutely necessary and elusive, the important things that don’t fit neatly into words, where “Language / is a crash cart” that embraces all facets of living at once, where all tones and options are open and commingle. Banks deftly navigates the present of capitalism (“its slow murder party”) and his own daily middle-age in three balanced sections, comprised of lyrics, a long poem and a sonnet sequence, that together offer the reader a tour of living that is a reminder that there is no singular path, but, as he writes, “more an inventory, a catalogue of blunders and begonias, of Pachelbel and air-conditioning, of protests and politics.” It’s an honest and important collection that continues to reward reading and rereading.”

John Gallaher, author of <em>Brand New Spacesuit</em>