All songs have skin, / all skin has holes. On High, Neil Surkan’s debut collection of poetry, searches for spirits in myr- iad places. Wondering how, why, and when to act with a conscience, speakers try out steep hikes, strong drugs, and earnest meditations as they attempt to make meaning in a divided and distracting world. Careful and tense, On High balances on all kinds of tightrope-like lines: a trout fisher revels after riding a moose, a buzzed lover speculates about human connection, new condo owners toast from balcony to balcony, a young woman kicks a hornet’s nest into her hometown library’s erotica/poetry/ religion section. Reaching for the sprigs of our shared humanity, Surkan’s poems offer courage and compassion in violent times. As the speaker in “The Branch Breaker” muses, “sarcasm won’t dissolve our enemies.” On High is a book for the contemporary moment. Neil Surkan has published poems in numerous Canadian magazines and is the author of the chapbook Super, Natural. He lives in Calgary. In the autumn of 1915 Will Bird was working on a farm in Saskatchewan when the ghost of his brother Stephen, killed by German mines in France, appeared before him in uniform. Rattled, Bird rushed home to Nova Scotia and enlisted in the army to take his dead brother’s place. And We Go On is a remarkable and harrowing memoir of his two years in the trenches of the Western Front, from October 1916 until the Armistice. When it first appeared in 1930, Bird’s memoir was hailed by many veterans as the most authentic account of the war experience, uncompromising in its portrayal of the horror and savagery, while also honouring the bravery, cama- raderie, and unexpected spirituality that flourished among the enlisted men. Written in part as a reaction to anti-war novels such as All Quiet on the Western Front, which Bird criticized for portraying the soldier as “a coarse- minded, profane creature, seeking only the solace of loose women or the courage of strong liquor,” And We Go On is a nuanced response to the trauma of war, suffused with an interest in the spiritual and the paranormal not found in other war literature. Long out of print, it is a true lost classic that arguably influenced numerous works in the Canadian literary canon, includ- ing novels by Robertson Davies and Timothy Findley. Will R. Bird (1891–1984) was a prolific author of history, travel writing, and fiction, best known for his books on the First World War and on the history of Nova Scotia. David Williams is professor of English in St Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba. 1 1 M Q U P F A L L 2 0 1 8 S P E C I F I C AT I O N S N$aZQdx$ZPo1’appopZG0arsfZ6asta. September 2018 -i2l9lii87l7S--l8ZZu,hn-7NZbmU4Zu,hn-7NZA64Zg,cn--ZZ3o3as 7ZBZin7ZZ,c933ZZ a:00£ZoDot5oT5a On High neil surkan Poems on the hunt for something to believe in. P O E T R Y S P E C I F I C AT I O N S September 2018 -i2l9lii87l7Si9lcZZuc-n-7NZbmU4Zuc-n-7NZA64Zgccn--ZZodCt0T00£ ApoTstCxaC4Z-Z$0ds.Z88Zktpdra. a:00£ZoDot5oT5a v5.0ZoDot5oT5ay -i2l9lii87lS8-hlhZZucSn-7NZbmU4ZucSn-7ZNZA64Zg,2n--ZZ3o3as n e w i n a u d i o b o o k And We Go On will r. bird Introduction and afterword by David Williams “A lost classic … among the most powerful Canadian reactions to the Great War.” Ian McKay and Robin Bates, In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia M E M O I R ? M I L I TA R Y H I S T O R Y
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