Book - 2010
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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.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2010.
ISBN: 9780771082672
Branch Call Number: 819. 1 STE
Characteristics: 111 p. ; 21 cm.


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May 14, 2011

John Steffler's latest collection, Lookout, is largely focused on and based in natural settings, paying tribute to nature, wrestling with both the enormity and the fragility of nature - nature unto itself and nature as it affects and is affected by human presence and interference. This is not your grandmother's nature poetry, though - it dispenses with sanctimony and is not afraid of irreverence or even violence. Many poems in this collection sweep the reader through breathtaking transitions from rugged physicality and earthiness to emotional delicacy, frailty and ephemerality.

Former Canadian national poet laureate Steffler's poems are not just acutely observant, but fully physically engaged. In fact, many of his poems quite literally meld body and landscape in startling, sometimes macabre, imaginative sequences.

Ironically, the most moving, central sequence in Lookout actually comes indoors to focus on a narrator's wistful time with his ailing parents, which is simply and poignantly interspersed with memories from their youth and young adulthood.

Upon that sad departure, it's as if the same narrator immediately, cathartically leaps back into the natural world in the next sequence, Outside, as if that is where he personally and all of us can ultimately find solace.

Lookout is a worthy contender for the Griffin Poetry Prize, for which it is nominated this spring. Steffler offers a poetry clinic in his mastery of a range of voices and forms, with none of the sterility that a clinic or lessons or examples would suggest. From the rocks and elements to the creatures navigating them, Steffler's poems are living, breathing, evocative beings.


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May 14, 2011

As I leave, she hugs me and /
cries like a child. I have never /
seen her like this. I say I'll /
be back in the early fall, and she /
nods as she goes on sobbing, not /
bothering to dry her face.

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