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Poetry Canadian



by (author) Aaron Boothby

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2023
Canadian, Places, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2023
    List Price

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“These poems buckle and drift in ways that reveal their continental scope. The I of these poems offers its critical lament, but it never overlooks beauty.” --Kaie Kellough

The poems in Continent ask to be done with presuming, knowing, and defining. They trace maps laid across lands and peoples by force, voiced by a speaker both engaged in attendingto this ongoing violence and unable to escape complicity with it. Urgent, visceral, emotionally striking, Aaron Boothby’s debut collection asks the question: how can we see, listen, and feel an ongoing catastrophe and look for what is beyond it?

About the author

Contributor Notes

Aaron Boothby is a poet from Riverside, California now living in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. His work has appeared in carte blanche, PRISM, and The Puritan, as well as two chapbooks: Reperspirations, Exhalations, Wrapt Inflections (2016, Anstruther Press) and Wave Fields (2020, Skyebound Press).

Excerpt: Continent: Poems (by (author) Aaron Boothby)

We trespass I have wondered
what do I know of our ghosts left them
across oceans whatever they’d tell
Why remember
we have so much we need to forget

What flowers did we dream before
becoming departures Our plots did not ask
to pass on useless tongues we gave
no flesh for memory’s recall in exchange
property offered to be our’s

One grandmother always refused
to teach her language here another kept
her’s for private letters When I arrived
looking like us I had to talk like us call
this still a new world classify me

I begin as a blank only thing
that’s our own no other way to be here
keep only what is lawful jettison
what doesn’t profit accommodate myself
ease into a silence that’s belonging

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Aaron Boothby and Continent

“These poems buckle and drift in ways that reveal their continental scope. They speak from an expansive I, which is less a person or a narrator than a consciousness that reflects on the conquest and settling of the Americas, a consciousness that carries a long historical memory into our troubled time. The I of these poems offers its critical lament, but it never overlooks beauty. It sings with the lushness of the natural world and delivers itself momentarily to joy in the face of a scorched, uncertain future. In language that shifts from lucid imagery to inspired abstraction, the work expresses deep concern for the wellbeing of the planet. Continent reads like a single long poem, and through this extended compositional sweep, the work sustains its pulse and its linguistic pitch.” —Kaie Kellough

“‘By looking I saw land was never empty,’ Aaron Boothby writes in this lacerating and exquisite collection, arguing against colonial capture and entitlement and in favor of each other and the earth. These poems are relentless in their indictment of white supremicist violence, distancing, and self-exculpation; they’re also gorgeous in their attention to what can and will survive, buzzing and singing with the life inside.” —Natalie Shapero, author of Popular Longing

“Aaron Boothby’s Continent makes good on the promise of poetry to exist as contrary, as contradiction: image without surveillance, elegance without exclusion, epic without damage. Acknowledging that ‘there's no outside to violence,' it navigates a psychogeography collaboratively reconfigured by poets like Brand and Lubrin, by Black and indigenous thinkers, by students of color. Even as shards of police violence and colonialist annihilation lodge in the poem's throat, Boothby's stubbornly resonant lyricism suggests that lyric is the right instrument for listening to and amplifying the susurrations that resist obliteration. He commits himself to the cause: ‘how to love/without doing harm.’” —Joyelle McSweeney, author of Toxicon and Arachne

Continent is an elegy, a question, and an act of listening all at once, likethe guest ‘who understands how to ask / when entering anywhere at all.’” —Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being
"Boothby turns the geographic notion of continent into another sense of place, not wholly removed from the nationalism of country and politics and borders, but big enough to engulf such social discriminations, bigger than any people, an indifferent yet imposing and beautiful landmass . . . He maps a difficult quest for how to be somewhere—and more than that, survive somewhere—that is in constant battle, unjustly for some more than others. Yet beauty also constantly emerges, moments to breathe and, as if an increasingly utopian concept, simply be."
Montreal Review of Books