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A thought-provoking history of the legendary Kootenay School of Writing.

THE ONLY POETRY THAT MATTERS new release

Reading the Kootenay School of Writing

In The Only Poetry That Matters, novelist and poet Clint Burnham offers the first book-length examination of the Kootenay School of Writing, the notorious group of poets who came to international attention in Vancouver during the 1980s. Founded in 1984 after the closure of David Thompson University Centre in Nelson, the KSW offered writing and publishing courses and hosted colloquia, critical talks, and a reading series featuring local, Canadian, and international writers (which continue to this day). Just as significantly, the KSW came to be associated with a number of “language” poets who worked defiantly outside the confines of traditional Canadian poetry. Using the psychoanalytic criticism of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek, Burnham unpacks this dense and disjunctive poetry, arguing that it matters because of its materiality, because of its politics, and because of how the writing, rather than offering a readymade message, passes the work onto the reader, allowing the reader to create meaning. Burnham demystifies this difficult work, breaking it down into three tendencies: the “empty speech” of poets like Kathryn McLeod, the “social collage” of Jeff Derksen’s work, and the Red Tory “neopastoralism” of Lisa Robertson. He also takes a tour through the KSW archive, unearthing its place in a social history of Vancouver—its art, its politics, its tumultuous geography. The Only Poetry That Matters is essential reading for anyone who is interested in contemporary writing, in political art, and in what it means to make meaning.

Clint Burnham Clint Burnham is a Vancouver writer and critic. He teaches in the English department at Simon Fraser University and is the author of many books, including the novel Smoke Show (page 38), the poetry collections The Benjamin Sonnets (Bookthug) and Rental Van (Anvil), and the literary theory book The Jamesonian Unconscious (Duke University Press).

isbn 978-1-55152-429-0 6 x 9 | 296 pp | paper $23.95 / nyp us

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