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 Žizek, Burnham unpacks and demystifies this purposely 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 ready-made message, passes the work onto the reader, allowing the reader to create meaning. Burnham identifies three tendencies: the "empty speech" of poets like Kathryn MacLeod, 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.
About the Author:
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 (Arsenal Pulp), the poetry collections The Benjamin Sonnets (Bookthug) and Rental Van (Anvil), and the literary theory book The Jamesonian Unconscious (Duke University Press).