Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Poetry Canadian

The Hayflick Limit

by (author) Matthew Tierney

Coach House Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2009
Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2009
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2009
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Book Award for Poetry

To be human is to cope with knowing. In the early sixties, Leonard Hayflick determined that healthy cells can divide only a finite number of times. Known as the Hayflick Limit, the law sets an unsurpassable lifespan for our species at just over 120 years.

The Hayflick Limit concerns itself with boundaries of the cosmic and sub-atomic – how the mind contains both – and the sadsack creatures in the nexus, human beings. What does it mean to be an intelligent species? What does it mean to be an intelligent person?

Shifting focus between the limits of the telescope and the limits of the microscope, the poems in Matthew Tierney's second collection place a premium on inventiveness while embracing extremes of fear, pain, cognition and time. With demotic verve and a humming line, he gives voice to a range of characters who scrape out meaning in a carnivalesque universe that has birthed black holes and Warner Bros. cartoons, murky market economies, murkier quantum laws, Vincent Price, Molotov cocktails, seedless grapes, Area 51 and competing Theories of Everything.

‘The most thoroughly engaged and inventive book of poetry I have read in a long, long time. Brimming with hi-lo wit, keenly apprised and settled with cultured repose, Matthew Tierney takes The HayflickLimit to the hoop.’ – David McGimpsey

‘Matthew Tierney writes poems like a mad boy scientist. His lines manage to blur the border between nomenclature and everyday insight ... Call it science fiction for the melancholic.’

Eye Weekly

About the author

Matthew Tierney is the author of three books of poetry. His most recent is Probably Inevitable, which won the 2013 Trillium Book Award for Poetry in English. His previous book, The Hayflick Limit, was shortlisted for a Trillium Book Award. He is a former recipient of the K.M. Hunter Award, and has placed his poems in numerous journals and magazines across Canada. He lives in Toronto.

Matthew Tierney's profile page

Related lists