Don McKay loves rocks. In recent years, the wonders of geology and the natural world have fed poetry and essays, bringing him enormous critical acclaim. “McKay doesn’t write about natural science,” say the New York Times Book Review, “so much as through it, using its terms and principles to explore the science of human nature.”
Long been considered one of Canada’s most respected and celebrated poets, Don has never been so lauded as he is right now. In March, his book of essays, The Shell of the Tortoise, won the BMO Winterset Award, Atlantic Canada’s richest literary prize. That honour coincided with the publication of his latest volume of poetry, Paradoxides, a book about fossils, deep time and the landscape of Newfoundland. His poetry collection Strike/Slip, inspired by ’field work’ on local river faults and fossil beds (“walking, talking, reading and, whenever possible, writing”), won the $50,000 Griffin Poetry Prize in 2005.
A fine, witty, and thoughtful reader of his own work, Don strives to bring the arts and sciences back together where he believes they belong. His poetry is “very fresh, very intelligent and very accessible,” says Canadian writer and Winterset juror Lisa Moore. Don’s work entices all of us to become more thoughtful inhabitants of the planet. Listen to his poems, hear him describe a hike through a river canyon, and you will never look at the earth in the same way again.
A member of the Order of Canada, Don is also a highly respected creative writing teacher and editor. He has twice won the Governor General’s Award for poetry.
Don was born in Owen Sound, raised in Cornwall, Ontario, and studied at the University of Wales. He now lives on the biggest rock of all, in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Photo Credit: Marlene Creates