Description of the World, The

By (author): Johanna Skibsrud

Winner of the 2017 Canadian Authors Award for Poetry

Finalist for the 2017 Pat Lowther Memorial Award

The Description of the World was the original title for Marco Polo’s writings about his travels, but in describing the world, Polo also helped to create it. In this collection, Skibsrud asks: is our world really what it appears to be? How do we shape it through language? And if language can create our world, can it also transform or destroy it?

A sense of vastness permeates the poems. Vistas and open fields are created rather than described. In these spaces, Skibsrud confronts us with the question of our own annihilation: atomic warfare, nuclear fallout and apocalyptic imagery inspired by French artist Jean Tinguely’s Study for an End of the World.

In turn, Skibsrud also addresses the subject of birth and renewal. In a final sequence of poems inspired by the birth of her daughter, we arrive at an understanding of ourselves in relation not only to the world we are born to, but to our role in a world we are still, and always, in the process of creating.


Johanna Skibsrud

Johanna Skibsrud is a Canadian-American writer, whose debut novel, The Sentimentalists, was awarded the 2010 Scotiabank Giller Prize, making her the youngest writer to ever win Canada’s most prestigious literary prize. She is the author of two novels, two collection of short fiction, three collections of poetry, and the co-author of a children’s book, Sometimes We Think You are a Monkey — proceeds of which are being donated to the Himalayan School Project. She received her BA in English Literature at the University of Toronto, her MA in English and Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal, and her PhD in English Literature at the Université de Montréal.


“Skibsrud’s poetry is best when it enacts these sorts of paradoxes, when ‘eyes see sight, and know it is a wall.’ She manages to be both straightforward and convoluted, and her poems have a meditative, thoughtful tone.” – Winnipeg Free Press

The Description of the World […] opens wide essential vistas in the brain where thought is suffused with both deep attention and tenderness.” – Marrow Reviews


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95 Pages
8.50in * 5.75in * .50in


October 18, 2016



Book Subjects:

POETRY / Canadian

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