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Posted: Friday April 9, 2010
Garry Thomas Morse

Garry Thomas Morse’s poetry books with LINEBooks include sonic riffs on Rainer Maria Rilke’s sonnets in Transversals for Orpheus and a tribute to David McFadden’s poetic prose in Streams. His poetry books with Talonbooks include a homage to San Francisco Renaissance poet Jack Spicer in After Jack, and an exploration of his mother’s Kwakwaka’wakw First Nations ancestry in Discovery Passages (finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, also voted One of the Top Ten Poetry Collections of 2011 by the Globe and Mail and One of the Best Ten Aboriginal Books from the past decade by CBC’s 8th Fire), and Prairie Harbour and Safety Sand.

Morse’s books of fiction include his collection Death in Vancouver, and the three books in The Chaos! Quincunx series, including Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus (2013 ReLit Award finalist), Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour (2014 ReLit Award finalist), and Minor Expectations, all published by Talonbooks.

Morse is a casual commentator for Jacket2 and his work continues to appear in a variety of publications and is studied at various Canadian universities, including UBC. He currently resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

LATEST Garry Thomas Morse NEWS

March 2018 : Poetry readings across Canada this week

January 2018 : Morse’s ideas of North

October 2016 : Prairie Harbour is a finalist for the Governor General’s Awards!

July 2016 : Tonight in New York City, the Poets House Poetry Publication Showcase opens New York City

April 2016 : The North + South Book Tour – Garry Thomas Morse in the prairies

January 2016 : George Elliot Clarke plugs Prairie Harbour!

December 2015 : Judith Fitzgerald: In Memoriam (1952–2015)

November 2015 : Two reviews of Morse’s Prairie Harbour

September 2015 : Garry Thomas Morse harbours Prairie Harbour on the prairie

June 2015 : Now Available! The Talonbooks Fall 2015 Catalogue

March 2015 : Meet Garry Thomas Morse in the Middle

December 2014 : 2014 ReLit Award Nominations

August 2014 : Expectations Met: Minor Is Here!

July 2014 : Our Fall 2014 Lineup!

May 2014 : After Completion Has Arrived!

May 2014 : Garry Thomas Morse Expo-sed to Fans in Regina

April 2014 : Coming in May! After Completion: The Later Letters of Charles Olson and Frances Boldereff

March 2014 : Poetry and Garry Thomas Morse, Together Again

November 2013 : Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus Shortlisted for 2013 ReLit Award

November 2013 : TONIGHT: Talonbooks Fall Launch in Toronto! Wigrum, Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour, and Singed Wings

November 2013 : Throughout November: The GTM Special!

October 2013 : Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour Has Arrived!

August 2013 : First Nation Communities Read 2013–2014

August 2013 : 8th Fire’s Essential Reads List

June 2013 : That’s a Wrap on the 2013 Whitehorse Poetry Festival


Prairie Harbour

Finalist for the 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry


Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour

2014 ReLit Awards, novel category (shortlisted)


Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus

Shortlisted for the 2013 ReLit Awards


Discovery Passages

Finalist for the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry

Finalist for the 2012 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize

One of the Top Ten Poetry Collections of 2011 (Globe and Mail)

One of the Best Ten Aboriginal Books from the past decade (2012, CBC – 8th Fire).


Safety Sand

"Navigating the surreal prairies with a refined lyrical consciousness … Morse treads across Manitoba’s colonial legacies to its unsettled edges. In the process, the work challenges notions of where one finds sure footing atop this slippery, contemporary landscape in attempts to, as he puts it in "Toward an Epilogue," making the most of the muck and extract the "quintessence of everything"."
Prairie Books NOW


Prairie Harbour

“Morse writes in the dense, trickster-like tradition of the so-called Prairie long poem … the reader willing to pay close attention will spot a series of unifying ideas. Prairie Harbour is, at its core, about the long and continuous attempts at erasure of aboriginal identity, and how the First Nations voice literally needs to fight against the margins, against the very idea of margin, to make itself heard. Morse lays out many aspects of his own heritage in doing this, but what he creates never feels forced or didactic. … His poetry energizes us to the threat of colonial erasure, hinting at the great spectrums of light that await us if we can move beyond the harm it brings. … This is a book that does not hold back its sense of hope.”
– Mark Sampson, author of Off Book (2007) and The Secrets Men Keep (2015)

“Of course, one of the best-known difficulties of the long poem is how to end it, and I think that Morse’s provision of a safe and quiet harbor for the mind is especially apt. With his intense examination of what the prairie harbors – including much ugliness and substantial racism – some shelter is needed, especially if the mind is expected to go on producing, or to go on at all. … His use of collage and deep engagement with place are clearly indebted to second-wave modernist poetics, and like many second-wave modernist works, they do much to complicate and enliven the place they represent. … Even as Prairie Harbour concludes, it demonstrates that there is enough drama in suburbia’s little boxes to keep us all going for a good, long while.”
Cordite Poetry Review

“Prairie: Haven for the fugitive. Harbour: Epicentre of epic. In Prairie Harbour, Garry Thomas Morse drafts a fugitive epic that represents the full flowering of all those seeds of thought that Robert Kroetsch’s Seed Catalogue ‘planted’ almost fifty years ago. This ingenious masterpiece is Morse Code ransacking Brit Lit up to Dylan Thomas, but from the vantage point of Canuck redoubts, such as Fort Garry. Imagine Billy Shakespeare shakin’ his spear at paleface invaders of Native land, or think of Eli Mandel, armed with Greco-Latin allusions, attacking Indian Act racism, and you’ll have an inkling of the finicky, spiky, thoughtful, beautiful verse that’s unfolded herein. How does an Indigenous intellectual imagine the arrival of the ‘filles du roi’ to Nouvelle-France? Here you go: ‘There is not even a sketchy sketch / of twelve year old orphan girls who / wince under old lechers, only lying / back and thinking of a new colony.’ Fugitive reader, get thee into this epic!”
– George Elliott Clarke, Toronto Poet Laureate, author of MMI

“Beware: when you delve into this book you are in danger of being ‘devoured by voles (or vowels?).’ And then there are the hares. No words, no words, no words can do this book justice. The poems explode every boundary – geographic, historic, linguistic. They leave you shriven as if the cold North Wind has found your bones. An incomparable verbal exuberance and quick, wide-ranging intelligence fuel and Garry Thomas Morse’s operatic howl.”
– Lorna Crozier, author of The Book of Marvels

“Visionary and discordant, reverent and relevant, Prairie Harbour is a symphony sounding the world. With an ear pressed to the troubled heart of history, art, the economy, and the environment, Morse’s lines pulse and click with urgency and incomparable wit. Strikethroughs, erasures, silences, and ever-shifting margins further animate and complicate the composition. Always challenging, always moving, this astonishing music of change is fully present and fiercely engaged. A powerful and masterful work.”
– Brenda Schmidt, Author of Flight Calls: An Apprentice on the Art of Listening

“Garry Thomas Morse lays bare all the connotations of safety and shelter that the word ‘harbour’ conveys and brushes these back against the bare, howling plains’ colonial history and present. Walking poems and documentary gestures track the ticking down of a heritage minute that refuses to end. The music of the spheres and the songs of the slough ring in our ears, asking what kind of a harbour is the prairie? Or what exactly does the prairie harbour?”
– Sarah Dowling, International Editor, Jacket2

“A whoppingly huge act of synthetic imagination, & an exciting example of the modernist (& post-) collage long poem. … What Morse has done in both his earlier Discovery Passages & Prairie Harbour is to radically complicate both the representations of & his readers’ responses to that history while also offering a fascinating reading experience to any willing to give these poems a go. … Prairie Harbour offers readers an engagement they will not soon forget.”
– Eclectic Ruckus (blog)


Minor Expectations

“[Morse’s] Minor Expectations is a feat of literary mischief, a ‘romanticone’ in which a playful Pan syncs his flute among various ‘novel’ genres: historical fiction, science fiction, lyric poetry, and theatre. A narrator eloquently flouts to the jocular, celebrating wit and frolic, revelling in the pervasive details of literature’s epic moments within literary epochs. The multitude of identifications, both literally and figuratively, are layered, clever and complex – cross threads pinned over a star map. There is so much about this book that made me smile and laugh! From a brazen and perverse parody to variations on time collapse, the peregrinations of fledgling heroine Diminuenda Minor take the reader on a quest that evinces not only sophisticated sensibilities of a-muse-ment and arousal but also of existence itself.”
– Sonia Di Placido, author of Exaltation in Cadmium Red

“In this entertaining, clever, genre-busting romp, Morse steers his courageous protagonist along a treacherous journey through time, weaving within the fast-moving plot references to classical literature, famous philosophers and ancient myths.”
– Melanie Schnell, author of While The Sun Is Above Us


Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour

“Surreal, complex, and hilarious … Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour is best savored slowly … Reading it is like reading poetry, a synaesthetic experience where technology and terrorism are as intimate and tangible as the smell of food or the texture of mud. Infused with Morse’s irrepressible humor, the books [in The Chaos! Quincunx] satisfy all the senses.”
Rain Taxi

“A vision of life with the liminal and the interstitial excised; our lives if we lived inside the current media representation of our lives … hilarious and bizarre … In Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour, Garry Thomas Morse has created something new, and we should celebrate it.”
– subTerrain

“Rogue Cells / Carbon Harbour provides two books in one, beginning with a satiric parody, romping across Native American territory to skewer a breadth of contemporary idiocracies as they emerge from celebrity narcissism, bizarre cult fervor, fundamentalist zealotry, and rampant paranoia over terrorism. Fun for the whole family! Meet you in the alleyway, George Orwell! There is no escape clause as we pursue the Ignoble Prize during a dystopian eco-meltdown, replete with alien life-forms, brazen mineral exploitation, extreme bio-harvesting, and luxuriously decadent contamination junkies, hustling us through a disintegration dance, during the Age of Aquarium. Unrepentant and unremitting pandemonium! An outrageous tour de farce! Read it! Be moved by Morse!”
– Karl Jirgens, Editor, Rampike magazine

“Carbon Harbour is an outrageous romp – wickedly inventive, clever as well as wise, deliciously satirical and steamier than sex and vegetables. Crackling with neologisms, sly elisions and provocative infelicities, it’s a meteoric fable of a future in which unhinged gardeners and gourmands should be particularly pleasured.”
– Des Kennedy, author of Climbing Patrick‘s Mountain

“Of contemporary surrealist writers, Garry Thomas Morse is the most uncompromising. He courageously severs the umbilical cord with so-called reality and ventures into an invented world paradoxically more real than our own. Brandishing a garish, jolting, jittery, hyper-technicolour style whose energy never flags, his alternate universes embody a satire on current trends that is more biting and relevant than that of seemingly realistic fiction. Enjoy the rollercoaster ride.”
– Barry Webster, author of The Lava in My Bones


Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus

Minor Episodes / Major Ruckus is a wonder. Garry Thomas Morse most certainly has Salvador Dalí, Miguel de Cervantes, André Breton, and that rude rocker Gargantua, courtesy of Rabelais, in his corner. His novel, with its themes of sex, money, and intrigue, and with its over-current of hilarity running amok, explodes from the page. To say this novel is on steroids is to downplay things. A careening, giddy ride is ahead, a mad word-dash to realities you’ve never even dreamed of. Transportation guaranteed!”
– M.A.C. Farrant, author, creator of My Turquoise Years

“Like a beguiling house of mirrors, Minor Episodes bends, twists, fractures and deforms reality through phantasmagoric visions, orgiastic inventions and a mischievous use of language. Don’t be deceived by its title: there is nothing minor about this major accomplishment.”
– Martine Desjardins, author of Maleficium

“Here are Bébé Cadum with his enormous smiling visage and Corsair Sanglot in their returning personages Bébé Lala and Signor Minor cavorting over the baroquely surrealist pages of these major Minor Episodes … our beloved Robert Desnos would have chortled in delight: so do we.”
– Mary Ann Caws, author of The Surrealist Look: An Erotics of Encounter

“The real reaction would be screaming catatonia, and too many authors would go too far into the alternative and just effuse us to death Pynchonian; but here the characters are true denizens of their milieu, something rarer in fiction than it might initially appear, and give us the reactions of, like, really arch action heroes. Oh! It’s camp! And Minor is an antivillain for our times who puts the Baudribbles and drabbles in DeLillo’s Cosmopolis to shame.”
– Martin McCarvill (LibraryThing)


Discovery Passages

“Discovery Passages..a finalist for the Governor-General’s Award in 2011, and rightly so: It is a striking, radical work, one that presages Idle No More, for these poems explore the contest between settler-state culture and language and the attempts of First Nations to preserve their own traditions..[t]hese poems are smart, masterful, necessary.”
The Chronicle Herald

“Like Wayde Compton’s 49th Parallel Psalm (1999) and Rita Wong’s forage (2007), Discovery Passages both extends and revises a literary history of the West Coast. Morse challenges the official historical record while indicating with poetic form his connection to a regional tradition of avant-garde poetics represented by Spicer, Robert Duncan, and Robin Blaser, especially, but also by Bowering, Daphne Marlatt, Meredith Quartermain, Lisa Robertson, and others.”
The Goose

“This is a rich and varied book, combining poetic lyric with elements of visual, sound, concrete and documentary poetry..Morse enacts a very real forensic case in this book, deftly gathering and presenting the evidence of crimes against the Kwakwaka’wakw people and their language and culture.” 
— The Globe and Mail

“In an effort to assimilate the Kwakwaka’wakw peoples, the government of Canada passed a law in 1885 banning the potlatch custom, and much of Morse’s volume is dedicated to articulating the impact of this offence on the identity of his ancestors..[t]o Morse, I give an award for reclaiming a lost history, and for completing the journey from loss to articulation to poetry.”
— The Montreal Gazette

“With Discovery Passages Garry Thomas Morse has remained true to what U.S. poet Gary Snyder has called the work of poetry: seriousness, commitment to craft, and no bulls—-, no backing away from any of the challenges that are offered to you.”
The Vancouver Sun

“Morse is a master of tonal balance, a virtuoso composer with an ear for epic contrast, and a poet of complexly binary intertexts for whom an envoi leads to no single destination.”
Canadian Literature

Discovery Passages is far too rich a mélange to be fully appreciated in a single reading. A super kind of bricolage, it’s a cornucopia of gifts from Garry Thomas Morse’s personal potlatch that readers will accept with deep gratitude.”
Eclectic Ruckus

Discovery Passages is a vital cross-cultural work, urgent in both its anger and its celebration. Morse’s supple voice lifts off the page while the stripped-down quotes in the documentary poem are presented in all their damning evidence, no further comment necessary. His longer poem ‘Wak’es’ with its literary echoes, is the most ironically intelligent statement I’ve read on ­cultural theft.”
Daphne Marlatt

“Take Garry Thomas Morse’s Discovery Passages, for example. For the poet, the book represents a kind of breakthrough; but, his work has been on my radar for so long, I cannot imagine our poetry without it; and, sans façon, I believe we are all richer for its existence.”
Judith Fitzgerald

“Adept, stunning, startling, and necessary, Discovery Passages performs an uncanny operation on the archives, reactivating some stories and decommissioning others so that we can breathe more fully today. This poetic excavation of the injustice inflicted on the Kwakwaka’wakw people is insightful, tender, and brutal in its scope. Here, "language is, portaging across/ global debris…" – gleaning the trash of history to make poetry that takes back what was stolen from Morse’s ancestors. This book includes the funniest dressing down of Duncan Campbell Scott I have ever read, snatching dignity away from colonial thieves and restoring it back into the communities where it belongs.”
Rita Wong

“These are passages planked by images of island life. Waves of words spoken by elders flood the poems, which crash into excerpts of Indian Affairs policies and paternalistic state documents. There are 500 years and 500 lines of unspeakable anguish but there is also a knowing, smiling resistance. Morse’s words are rhythmic as wild salmon, departing to explore a wider ocean but always coming back home.”
Russell Wallace


After Jack

"In After Jack, Morse has stepped firmly onto the ground occupied by George Bowering’s Kerrisdale Elegies, where translation crosses boundaries of space, time, culture, and language, laying the common property of the poem bare―and gasping for air. Take a deep breath. Now dive back in."
—Stephen Collis

"After Jack is rich in imaginings—and in realities of Lorca-memories and in shimmerings and reflections of the grail."
—Michael McClure

"Morse’s words are cutting. He ravages language, but thankfully maintains a subtle humour throughout. This book is a love story between Jack Spicer, Garry Thomas Morse, language, and you."

"Far too clever for its own good, After Jack is a large rabbit-eared radio, indeed."


Death in Vancouver

“Admirers of James Joyce, Malcolm Lowry, and Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice will be intrigued by Garry Thomas Morse’s strong collection of stories entitled Death in Vancouver. Though often exhibiting echoes of the great masters, these stories are certainly new, anchored solidly in the author’s West Coast world. In the title story, especially, the author has built an original tale vibrating with strong reverberations of the Mann novella and making use of locations that found their way into Lowry’s writing. Despite its roots in giant works of the past century it reads as authentically new, thanks in part to that obviously contemporary narrating ‘street voice’ — combined with subtle First Nations references. It is a reminder that we all live in a world that has been created by those who came before us and who are, in some way, still with us.”
— Jack Hodgins

“Garry Thomas Morse is an extraordinarily talented writer, and his Death in Vancouver is nothing less than a stunning accomplishment. It is work of prodigious erudition and imaginative daring, and it brings vividly to life (and death) the entangled narratives and sonantic richness of the global city.”
— David Chariandy

–“Death in Vancouver_, a selection of short prose bits with crazy compelling characters, tight, precise and breathtaking language and imagery and opera! I am enthralled by its originality. His writing reminds me of John Lavery’s work; they both are adept at linguistic "acrobatics" and are skilled in painting memorable and unusual characters.”
— Amanda Earl

“In Death in Vancouver, the story ‘Salt Chip Boy’ is very fine and intriguing, with the severe Baudrillard disconnect between mind and body, the cyber push in the direction of William Gibson and beyond, the cheeky use of ‘K’ which holds a whiff of Kafka, and the language which makes one feel as if they’ve stumbled (with satisfaction) into times far hence.”
— M.A.C. Farrant

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