The Essential P. K. Page (Digital Edition)

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P. K. Page, Arlene Lampert and Théa Gray
The Essential P. K. Page

P. K. Page needs no introduction. This is a poet who writes in many genres and on an infinite number of subjects. The source of her poetry is always love – whether in vivid portraits of her inner and outer landscapes; startling insights into the past, the present, the future; illumination of some tiny detail of ordinary life; or admonishments for our neglect of the earth and of each other. Page is an alchemist who turns language into pure gold, a magician who dazzles with sleight of mind. The Essential P. K. Page is perceptive, elegant, romantic (yet never sentimental), sometimes downright funny, wholly conscious.

About the Book

This is the second volume in our ‘Essential Poets’ series. Our aim is to provide the best possible introduction to a prominent Canadian poet by selecting key works that carry the essence of an individual poetic voice and sensibility. By offering a small but carefully considered selection it is hoped these chapbooks will invite an intimate acquaintance and ongoing engagement with the poems. Selected by Arlene Lampert and Théa Gray, the collection is admittedly wildly idiosyncratic and certain to be controversial. Arranged alphabetically for easy reference, these poems do not reflect a ‘young’ or a ‘mature’ voice; for Page, time is not linear and change does not occur along a narrow path. Think of this volume as a sort of pocket P. K. Page making its way into backpacks, carry-on luggage, doctors’ waiting rooms ...


2009—Alcuin Award for Excellence in Book Design,

Praise for The Essential P. K. Page

‘Elegant, rigorous, fresh, P. K. Page’s work sings with a voice of independent character and maenad conjecture. It is a creature that lives on its own terms and terrain. It is startling, authoritative, and anti-sentimental, able to bear cool as well as passionate gazing at our own species. Her poems are always thinking -- each line is thinking, while its six senses remain impeccably alert. Her poems live by wit, wisdom, sass, suspense and a muscular lissome synapse and diction. They are daring in scope, meticulous in accomplishment, and boldly moral -- with a lovely flavour of amoral verve! We fall under the charm of her reasoning, of her fecund, fastidious imagination, of her many musics, and of her necessariness to us, her essentialness.’

—Griffin Prize citation

‘... Northrop Frye uses the phrases ‘‘metallic glitter’’ and ‘‘imaginative wisecracks’’ to describe Page’s poems.... Those who enjoy ‘‘glitter’’ in poetry will appreciate the diction, imagery, and acoustics of Page’s phrasings, as in ‘‘Evening Dance of the Grey Flies’’.’

—Maxianne Berger, Rover Arts Montreal

‘Born in England, Patricia Kathleen (P. K.) Page moved to Canada in 1919, at the age of three. She has lived in New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, and Alberta and now makes her home in British Columbia, in the capital city of Victoria on Vancouver Island. At age 92 she is writing more than ever. This latest collection of her poetry, The Essential P. K. Page, is aptly named. Any fan of her work, of Canadiana, of poetry in general, needs to own this book. The works contained within are dense and chewy, both requiring and creating thought, and keeping all five of the reader’s senses involved in the pleasure of reading them. What makes Page’s poems so unusual is their apparent rejection of the idea that thought and emotion, thinking and feeling, are different and must be kept separate. P. K. Page thinks with her heart, loves with her mind, and leaves us a wonderful, tangled mess of imagination and possibility. I hope she lives well into her triple-digits, and brings us many more portraits painted as beautifully, as movingly as The Essential P. K. Page.’

—Beth Carswell, abebooks

The Essential P.K. Page is ... a relief. It’s a reprieve to hold in one’s hand a compact 60 pages featuring the most memorable, most confounding, most rereadable poems written by Page.

—Anita Lahey, ARC Poetry Magazine

‘Facing the fact of Page’s entire oeuvre can be daunting; it contains little apprentice-work, few throwaways. The Essential P. K. Page is in this sense a relief. It’s a reprieve to hold in one’s hand a compact 60 pages featuring the most memorable, most confounding, most rereadable poems written by Page, arranged alphabetically -- each allowed its own space, unencumbered by time or category.’

—Anita Lahey, The Malahat Review

About the Author


Credit: Barbara Pedrick

P. K. Page wrote some of the best poems published in Canada over the last seven decades. In addition to winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1957, she was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She was the author of more than two dozen books, including ten volumes of poetry, a novel, short stories, eight books for children, and two memoirs based on her extended stays in Brazil and Mexico with her husband Arthur Irwin, who served in those countries as the Canadian Ambassador. In addition to writing, Page painted, under the name P. K. Irwin. She mounted one-woman shows in Mexico and Canada. Her work was also exhibited in various group shows, and is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Victoria Art Gallery, among others.

A two-volume edition of Page’s collected poems, The Hidden Room (Porcupine’s Quill), was published in 1997, and the full range of her richly varied work is being made available in a digital resource, The Digital Page, supplemented by a series of texts in print and e-book format published by The Porcupine’s Quill.

P. K. Page was born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies. She died on the 14th of January, 2010.

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