• Tar Swan

Tar Swan

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978-1-988732-18-3 | 2018 April | 96 Pages


 Shortlisted for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award!
 Finalist for the City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize!
 Winner for Book Design at the 2019 Alberta Book Publishing Awards!

Tar Swan is a multi-voiced reckoning that surveys the mythos of the Alberta oil sands with an approach that is both lyrical and experimental. The poems feature four voices: an oil sands developer, his plant mechanic, an archaeologist excavating the remains of the operation in the present day, and a mythical swan. David Martin’s debut collection is comprised of expansive and richly written poems, built on a lore-laden language, which explore the human and environmental cost of drawing too much from the land. As the three humans come into contact with the otherworldly swan, the voices bubble and churn together, and what is distilled is a psychological breakdown paralleling the toll taken on the earth.

Interview with CBC Books

“Through its daring, and brilliantly challenging, use of diction, syntax and imagery, it embodies the best of contemporary experimental verse. Tar Swan urgently speaks to central concerns of our time, particularly here in Canada: the consequences of coal and oil extraction, environmental degradation, and our responsibility to the natural world.”
~ CBC Poetry Prize Citation

“James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, said: 'A demon of rotation is loose in the world.' David Martin knows that the demon is now powered by petroleum, and he tracks it to the Alberta Tar Sands. Martin's poems fuse research, myth and human drama into a blazing work of art.”
~ Bert Almon, author of A Ghost in Waterloo Station

“Martin’s complex collection criticizes the hubristic development of the tar sands and unearths fixed forms to reckon with environmental change.”
~ Kait Pinder, Canadian Literature

“Martin’s troubling of the history of the tar sands in this impressive first poetry collection invites more historical and creative work in this vein.”
~ Melanie Dennis Unrau, The Goose

“This is a remarkable collection...”
~ Anne Burke, The Prairie Journal

“In Tar Swan, David Martin has composed a quartet of exuberant and unpredictable voices on an urgent contemporary theme for the age of climate change. The eponymous swan is a ‘single cygnet’ who sings and leaves traces that now ‘drive your cars’ as well as the myths that make the Alberta Tar Sands possible. Martin explores those myths in gritty, sensual, and historically vivid language. This ambitious debut immerses us in the tar of archaeology and the bite of our own environmental dilemma, all with ‘a master’s sprezzatura form.’”
~ Jurors of the 2019 Raymond Souster Award

“This book is a wild ride...”
~ Sid Marty, Alberta Views

“Martin's Tar Swan illuminates the degradation of the non-human and human world in four fictive voices bound by a specific thematic and historical period.... this work quickens.“
~ Deanna Radford, ARC Poetry Magazine

“In the context of settler colonialism and petromodernity’s histories of expropriation and enclosure of land and knowledge for private gain, Martin’s archival sabotage might offer one model of cultural 'counterdispossession,' a formal and tactical response that intertwines ecological concerns with the difficult and urgent attempts to think towards decolonization.”
~ Max Karpinski, NiCHE