With uncanny wit, inventive beauty, and numinous surprise, The Most Charming Creatures explores the contemporary and its language, considering our wonder, sorrow, bewilderment, anxiety, and tenderness. While these poems energize and connect and “turn the paren- / theses inside out so that / we mean everything,” they are also alive to the alluring complicity of language and its duplicity and deceptions. “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but / while we watch.”
A follow-up to the award-winning author’s acclaimed selected poems, this new collection continues Barwin’s examination of the possibilities of the poem: a celebration, a story, an investigation, a riff, a word machine, a parable, a transformation. But what are the “most charming creatures” of the title? In 1862, scientific illustrator Ernst Haeckel termed radiolarians (ancient single-celled organisms with mineral skeletons) “the most charming creatures,” but here Barwin turns the microscope around to consider something just as strange and mysterious: language, our culture, and the self. From microorganisms, onion rings, grief, and Gerard Manley Hopkins to beetles, neoliberalism, sandwiches, Martin Luther, and stand-up comedy, he offers: “it’s a miracle that we’ve survived / it’s a miracle that we’ve survived at all.”
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The bestselling author of 26 books of fiction and poetry, Gary Barwin has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour, the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He lives in Hamilton, ON.
Published: September 2022
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.
“There’s a way through which Barwin’s surrealism and play with puns and banter display, most of all, a deep empathy and engagement with others, something always present in his work, but somehow more forefront through the poems in this particular collection. And perhaps that, by itself, is the difference here: Barwin wearing his heart so openly, while still allowing language and play to swirl around that particular centre.” — rob mclennan’s blog