This is the third installment in acclaimed poet Wayne Clifford’s series of sonnets, The Exile’s Papers, a project decades in the making and now recognized as one of the most inventive creative projects ongoing in Canada.
About the Book
Wayne Clifford’s The Exile’s Papers first appeared in 2007 with the publication of The Duplicity of Autobiography, but this creative project -- a four-part series of hundreds of surreal, straightforward, narrative or mythic, and endlessly varying sonnets -- is the culmination of decades of effort. In 2009 the series continued with The Face As Its Thousand Ships, and now emerges the third installment: The Dirt’s Passion Is Flesh Sorrow.
Described by critics as ‘resonant’, ‘striking’, ‘quixotic’, ‘elegant’, ‘ribald’ and ‘jazzy’, Clifford’s sonnets defy categories or boundaries. He is a master of the form and every page is an example of how a great poet can use a complicated structure to achieve depth of thought, beauty and explosive resolutions (or, in many cases, questions). In fact, every poem reinvents the sonnet itself, and, despite all poems sharing the same form, each one is sharply, conclusively differentiated from the others. These are sonnets like you’ve never read before.
Clifford often draws on his own life experiences -- fatherhood, love, death and uncertainty -- but he also has plenty to say about God, pop culture and the foolhardiness of certain current political figures. In the end, though, the collection remains a remarkably cohesive, intelligent and death-defying foray into an ancient form that never knew what hit it.
Praise for The Exile's Papers, Part 3
‘As with the first two installments of The Exile’s Papers quartet, The Dirt’s Passion is Flesh Sorrow leaves the reader challenged and changed, both conceptually and intellectually.’
Read an Excerpt
Here, at the Now
I set out on a journey. Someone else
came back. And home seemed a mock-up elves
had glued from shattered memories set false
against a much too perfect background. Selves
of who had been a tourist, who had bought
the cheap, unpackable, bright, woven wares,
persisted, as did those of he who sought
at last an absolution from the cares
of things. Sunlight itself seemed thinned; the dark
was filled with shaky handholds, bed a grief
that brought a sleep with no relief, left stark
afterimages of deserts, and the too brief
comprehension he was somewhere else
at last, this stranger rousing in my pulse.
About the Author
Wayne Clifford was born in Toronto in 1944. He studied English at University College at the University of Toronto in the mid sixties during which time he came to be associated with a small coterie of students that included Stan Bevington, Dennis Reid, Doris and Judith Cowan, and David Bolduc. Wayne also remembers Tangiers Al, but not clearly, which says something about the time. While still an undergraduate Clifford won numerous Norma Epstein prizes for his poetry and also one E. J. Pratt Award (1967) that he shared with Michael Ondaatje. (One poet kept the money, the other, the medal. In the end each felt equally cheated.)
Stan Bevington had started his fledgling Coach House Press in 1964 and asked Clifford to acquire a few poetry manuscripts suitable for book production of an experimental sort. Wayne secured early work from George Bowering, Victor Coleman, bpNichol and Michael Ondaatje. At the founding meeting of the League of Canadian Poets (1966) Wayne proposed a Writers’ Anonymous akin to other, similar, twelve-step programmes. Clifford’s idea was not seriously considered. Shortly thereafter, Clifford left Toronto to pursue graduate studies in creative writing at the University of Iowa. Clifford began working at St. Lawrence College in Kingston in 1969, when the College was just new, and was involved in the Creative Writing program and the Fine Arts Program, until both were discontinued in the 1980s. Clifford then joined the General Arts & Science Program (GAS -- and yes, he does enjoy this irony of this acronym) and began teaching remediation in language. He retired in June of 2004. He was working on a poetry collaboration (unpublished) with bpNichol at the time of bp’s death in 1988.
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