About the Book

The Only Poetry That Matters

The Only Poetry That Matters

Reading the Kootenay School of Writing
April 2012
Trade Paperback · 296 Pages
$23.95 U.S.
ISBN 9781551524290
Arsenal Pulp Press


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The Kootenay School of Writing is an internationally renowned poetry group that came of age in the 1980s. It is best known for its contributions to language poetry, the tradition founded in the early 1970s by Charles Bernstein and others, a direct descendant of the "New American" poetry movement. Using the psychoanalytic criticism of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žizek, novelist and poet Burnham unpacks and demystifies the purposely dense and disjunctive work of KSW poets, arguing that it matters because of its materiality, because of its politics, and because of how the writing, rather than offering a ready-made message, passes the work onto the reader, allowing the reader to create meaning. Burnham identifies three tendencies: the "empty speech" of poets like Kathryn MacLeod, the "social collage" of Jeff Derksen’s work, and the Red Tory "neopastoralism" of Lisa Robertson. He also takes a tour through the KSW archive, unearthing its place in a social history of Vancouver—its art, its politics, its tumultuous geography.

The Only Poetry That Matters is essential reading for anyone who is interested in contemporary writing, in political art, and in what it means to make meaning.

Clint Burnham is an English professor at Simon Fraser University. His books include the novel Smoke Show (Arsenal Pulp Press) and The Jamesonian Unconscious (Duke University Press).

About the Author

Clint Burnham is a writer who teaches in the English department at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of many books, including the novel Smoke Show (Arsenal Pulp), the poetry collection The Benjamin Sonnets (Bookthug), and the literary theory book The Jamesonian Unconscious (Duke University Press).