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Poetry Canadian


by (author) John Steffler

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2010
Canadian, Places, Nature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2010
    List Price

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The first collection of new poems in more than a decade from one of Canada’s most respected poets

The poems in John Steffler’s new collection are enlivened by the same muscular acts of attention that characterize his earlier books. As always, his poems inhabit experience fully, senses on high alert, transmitting the abundance and turbulence of physical existence; they are charged with the raw Eros of being. Nowhere is there a more complete nature poet: attuned, robust, honest, fully informal, and emotionally candid, brimming with energy and animal spirits. Many of the poems in Lookout explore and evoke specific landscapes: the limestone barrens of Newfoundland; the Blomidon and Lewis Hills; the Greek Islands. Others dwell on personal relationships: lover, pregnant daughter, and a touching, finely tuned sequence on a family coping with a mother’s Alzheimer’s. There is also a wonderful set of meditations on photographs from the archives in Newfoundland. Canadian literature is blessed – and animated – by John Steffler’s contributions to it.

About the author

John Steffler (1947) grew up near Thornhill, ON. In 1975, he began teaching at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, NL. His novel The Afterlife of George Cartwright won the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Governor General's Award and the Commonwealth Prize for best first book in 1992. His other awards include the Thomas Head Raddall Atlantic Fiction Prize, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Artist of the Year Award, and the Atlantic Poetry Prize for his most recent collection, That Night We Were Ravenous.

John Steffler's profile page


  • Short-listed, Griffin Poetry Prize

Excerpt: Lookout (by (author) John Steffler)

The Role of Calcium in Evolution

Sweet calcium we found we could live with,
stir into our cells’ hubbub, tinker into
a trellis to carry our fi erce red vine – its
eyeball blossoms, cunt orchids, cock orchids –
we could whittle it into bone stilts and paddles,
hooks, tongs, helmets, mallets, cleavers, awls,
fl utes, rasps, rattles, corsets, folding spokes,
but then, oh god the weight of all these
contraptions! Just throw them out and be
light! While the old hardware clatters
down like Victorian claw-foot settees
settling in scrap heaps – the ear trumpets,
the spurs compressed in archaeological
fi les – we fl oat careless as fruit fl ies
in an armoury, all the weight lifted,
tra-la! But the dark rock candy of history
dissolves in the rain, leaking the diatom’s binary
code, the lobster’s molecular gospel into
the water we drink. Sleepless we pore over
Things You Can Make with Calcium in cellular
Braille. As soon as you throw something away
you need the damn thing! Hinged pincers
down here somewhere under the catapults and
greaves. Tell me how else to deal with the world!

Editorial Reviews

Praise for John Steffler:
"In a profound way, John Steffler's poetry is concerned with cultural identity and memory, and provides a touchstone for Canadians seeking a way to move forward as a nation…. What makes John Steffler's poetry so valuable is that his consideration of the philosophical problems of memory, history and identity speaks directly to key preoccupations in Canadian culture today."
— from Letter of Nomination for the Parliamentary Poet Laureate

"John Steffler is Canada's most sensuously passionate writer. Reading him, we are put in touch with the pure erotic draw which the world exercises upon him. The acuity of his perception, and the size of his heart, make his poems an essential part of our literature."
— Don McKay, Griffin Poetry Prize winner for Strike/Slip
"Steffler paints the wilderness in a language that often 'knocks and hisses and crackles,' but nothing of the poetry here sounds contrived or artificial. [Steffler's work] subtly nudges the reader along, never falling prey to the usual grab-bag of bells and whistles. It is a work that teems with images that are celebratory of life, ones that quietly ring with the music of the land."
— Montreal Gazette
"John Steffler is one of our finest lyric poets in mid-career."
— Ken Babstock, Globe and Mail
"[John Steffler's poems] reveal an unexpected side to the exotic and hidden dimensions of the familiar…. Part keen-eyed naturalist, part exuberant philosopher, Steffler memorializes the terrain of his beloved Newfoundland, in particular, with disarming whimsy and grace. His descriptions are vivid and metaphysically resonant, too."
— Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

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