The Muskwa Assemblage

By Don McKay

The Muskwa Assemblage
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“In August 2006,” writes Don McKay in his introduction, “a group of artists working in different media, and out of a variety of traditions, assembled in the Muskwa-Kechika wilderness of Northern British Columbia. This ‘art-camp’ was organized and managed by Donna Kane ... Read more


Overview

“In August 2006,” writes Don McKay in his introduction, “a group of artists working in different media, and out of a variety of traditions, assembled in the Muskwa-Kechika wilderness of Northern British Columbia. This ‘art-camp’ was organized and managed by Donna Kane and Wayne Sawchuk as a way to direct aesthetic attention to an area?one of very few?in which a wild ecosystem remains virtually intact. This book is my response, presented in a form which, so I hope, fits both the region and the experience. ”

Spreading a map of the Muskwa-Kechika out on the kitchen table prior to the trip, McKay studies the region framed by the Toad River in the north and the Tuchodi Lakes to the south. Written on the ground and in retrospect, the assemblage of poetry and prose describes encounters with the landscape and its inhabitants?lichen, caribou, moose, loons, and an unruly pack horse named Bucky.

Taking up naming, ownership, wilderness, deep time?preoccupations that emerged previously in Vis à Vis and Deactivated West 100?McKay brings these notions to bear on a place almost entirely undisturbed by human settlement or industry. The Muskwa Assemblage is about settling into this lack of parameters, writing down and crossing out attempts to define that which goes on happily without definition.

Interspersed with the prose are poems that capture what observation of animals in their habitat has over naming?of reducing to the shorthand of category?and similarly what wilderness retains when human habitation is not the object, where we are simply “beings among beings. ”

This book is a smyth-sewn paperback. The text is typeset in Jenson and hand printed from photopolymer plates on Hahnemühle Biblio paper making 48 pages trimmed to 4. 5 × 7 inches, bound into a paper cover and enfolded in a letterpress-printed jacket. The jacket paper will be handmade at Gaspereau Press.

Don McKay

Don McKay has published numerous books of poetry and several books of essays. The poetry has been recognized with a number of awards, including two Governor General’s Awards and the Griffin Poetry Prize. His most recent book of essays, The Shell of the Tortoise, received the Winterset Prize for Excellence in Newfoundland and Labrador Writing for 2011. Paradoxides, his most recent book of poems, winner of the E.J. Pratt Prize for Poetry, includes meditations on geology and deep time, while pursuing ongoing obsessions with birds and tools. He lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

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