Niagara & Government is Phil Hall’s seventeenth book of poetry. His poetic practice spans almost fifty years. In 2011 Hall won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in English for his collection of essay-poems, Killdeer, which the jury called “a masterly modulation of the elegiac through poetic time.” Killdeer also won Ontario’s Trillium Book Award, and was nominated for the Griffin Poetry Prize (as was his 2005 collection An Oak Hunch). Hall’s 2016 collection, Conjugation, was praised by Douglas Barbour as “a major addition to a major oeuvre.”
Hall has published many small press chapbooks, and is a visual artist who works in collage. He has taught writing at the Kootenay School of Writing, Ryerson University, Banff Centre, and Toronto New School. He has been writer-in-residence at Sage Hill Writing Experience (Saskatchewan), Berton House (Dawson City, Yukon), Queen’s University, University of Ottawa, and most recently at University of New Brunswick, Fredericton (2018/19). While at Queen’s in 2012 he inaugurated an annual lecture series, The Page Lectures, in honour of Kingston poet and artist Joanne Page.
Hall has lived in Windsor, Vancouver and Toronto, and now lives in a log house outside Perth, Ontario. A decade ago, Pedlar published his collection The Little Seamstress.
“To tell what happened to you is not a poem,” writes Phil Hall in this, his latest collection, Niagara & Government. What a poem is: roaring calamity, wedding deceptions, sobriety, Charlottesville mobs, estranged sisters, folk art, poverty, puffery, work, names on cenotaphs, white space, white space, white space. These long sequential poems want to be spoken. They invite the reader to check her ego and sit with “the good stories that un-tongued us.”
“Increasingly known as the “poet’s poet,” Governor General’s Award–winner Phil Hall has long been a constructor of intricate sequences, collecting and arranging lines and phrases, artifacts, and small revelations. He writes on influences, literary and local; he writes of rural Ontario, attempting to comprehend a deeply personal family violence; he stitches together lines and tall tales and fables from his life and the stories that float around the ethos of his variety of Ontario wilds. Hall’s isn’t a poetry carved into perfect diamond form but a poetry whittled from scores of found materials pulled apart and rearranged.” —rob mclennan
Phil Hall reading from Niagara & Government.
Video credit: David Zimmerly