Fine Incisions: Essays on Poetry and Place

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The Porcupine's Quill, 2011 - Literary Collections - 256 pages

‘A poem, I thought, is a physical object, as tactile as a statue. I began to consider poems in textual terms; there were shaggy surfaces, knobbly ones, mere veneers as sleek as glassine, but my favourites were those in which a complex and tensile music prevailed....’

Eric Ormsby, that gracious, intelligent and occasionally fractious poet, has produced another vigorous collection of essays to shake North American literary criticism from its lethargy. Opinionated and hilarious, Ormsby indulges his wide-ranging interests and discusses writers from Bob Dylan to S. D. Goitein, La Fontaine to Leo Tolstoy. Fine Incisions also draws connections between Ormsby’s literary criticism and his travel writing; as his essay ‘Shadow Language’ notes, the music of another language can seep pleasurably into a writer’s work (and, as Ormsby also notes, the lack of such linguistic overlap cheapens much of contemporary poetry!).

Although the topics vary widely, Ormsby’s viewpoint remains sharp and uncompromising, and his familiarity with North American, British and Arabic literary cultures informs each essay and leads to new and provocative reflection. Most of all, each essay is an expression of Ormsby’s own romance with language, and his devotion is clear in his adamant insistence on all writers’ very best.


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About the author (2011)

Eric Ormsby’s poetry has appeared in most of the major journals in Canada, England and the U.S., including The New Yorker, Parnassus and The Oxford American. His first collection of poems, Bavarian Shrine and other poems (ECW Press, 1990), won the QSpell Award of 1991. In the following year he received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award for ‘outstanding work as a poet’. His collection, Coastlines (ECW Press, 1992), was a finalist for the QSpell Award of that year. A sixth collection, Time’s Covenant, appeared in 2006 with Biblioasis. His work has been anthologized in The Norton Anthology of Poetry as well as in The Norton Introduction to Literature.

Eric and his wife Irena currently live in London, England.

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