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Field Marks

The Poetry of Don McKay

By Don McKay
Edited by Méira Cook
Subjects Poetry, Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
Series Laurier Poetry Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889204942, 88 pages, April 2006
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554586585, 88 pages, August 2009


Field Marks: by Don McKay

just like you and me but

cageless, likes fresh air and

wants to be his longing.

wears extra eyes around his neck, his mind

pokes out his ears the way an Irish Setter's nose

pokes out a station-wagon window.

His heart is suet. He would be a bird book full of

lavish illustrations with a text of metaphor.

He would know but still

be slippery in time. He would eat crow. He becomes

hyperbole, an egghead who spends days attempting to compare the

shape and texture of her thigh to a snowy egret's neck, elegant

and all too seldom seen in Southern Ontario.

He utters absolutes he instantly forgets. Because

the swallow is intention in a fluid state it is

impossible for it to “miss. “ On the other

hand a swallow's evening has been usefully compared

to a book comprised entirely of errata slips.

He wings it.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Field Marks: The Poetry of Don McKay selected with an introduction by Méira Cook


Neil Besner

Biographical Note

Introduction: Song for the Song of the Dogged Birdwatcher

Méira Cook

Down River, Into the Camp

At the Long Sault Parkway

The Great Blue Heron

The Eye Meets Tom Thomson’s “A Rapid”

The Trout


Lependu nearly materialized by his blackbirds

Field Marks:


The Boy’s Own Guide to Dream Birds

I Scream You Scream

Adagio for a Fallen Sparrow

Field Marks (2):


VIA, Eastbound


Some Functions of a Leaf

How to Imagine an Albatross

from Black Spruce

Another Theory of Dusk

Meditation on a Geode

Choosing the Bow

Meditation on Shovels


Early Instruments




(i) The Man from Nod

(ii) Fates Worse Than Death

Setting the Table

(i) Knife

(ii) Fork

(iii) Spoon

Sometimes a Voice (1)


Luna Moth Meditation

Hush Factor

Sometimes a Voice (2)


Afterword: The Shell of the Tortoise

Don McKay



This volume features thirty-five of Don McKay’s best poems, which are selected with a contextualizing introduction by Méira Cook that probes wilderness and representation in McKay, and the canny, quirky, thoughtful, and sometimes comic self-consciousness the poems adumbrate. Included is McKay’s afterword written especially for this volume in which McKay reflects on his own writing process—its relationship to the earth and to metamorphosis.

Don McKay has published eight books of poetry. He won the Governor General’s Award in 1991 (for Night Field) and in 2000 (for Another Gravity), a National Magazine Award (1991), and the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry in 1984 (for Birding, Or Desire). Don McKay was shortlisted for the 2005 Griffin Poetry Prize for Camber and was the Canadian winner of the 2007 Griffin Poetry Prize for Strike/Slip. Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, McKay has been active as an editor, creative writing teacher, and university instructor, as well as a poet. He has taught at the University of Western Ontario, the University of New Brunswick, The Banff Centre, The Sage Hill Writing Experience, and the BC Festival of the Arts. He has served as editor and publisher of Brick Books since 1975 and from 1991 to 1996 as editor of The Fiddlehead. He resides in British Columbia.


``Selected and compiled by Méira Cook (who also provides the reader with an extensive and informative introduction) [and] enhanced with the inclusion of an essay by McKay . .. Field Marks is a superb introduction to an accomplished poet and will motivate the reader to search out his other published works. ''

- Jason Warrant, The Midwest Book Review, August 2006

``The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming. ''

- Paul Milton, Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007

``The books are fairly slim (ranging from fifty-six to eighty pages), but each provides a decent outline of the respective poet's career, style, and dominant concerns. The introductory essays are straightforward and informative--they provide a useful interpretive framework for anyone coming to this poetry for the first time. These volumes seem designed for students and educators; each offers a more complete picture of the poet than one would get from an anthology. ''

- University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008