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Conjugation by Phil Hall


Conjugation by Phil Hall


March 2, 2016
112 pages
8 x 6 inches
ISBN 9781771662185

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SKU: 201604 Categories: , ,

CBC Books Best Books of 2016 Selection

Quill and Quire Spring 2016 Preview Selection

CBC Books Spring 2016 Books Preview Selection

49th Shelf Most Anticipated Spring 2016 Poetry Selection

I am sitting outside at dawn on Otty Lake, where I live, in the woods. The light is coming over the trees, and each morning the poem is written as if right while it is being read…

The lyric weaving of honesty about the self-toward revelation & transformation.

My poetics has widened, here, to include more space, more primitive sounds and glyphs, less metaphor, less anecdote, more tangential conjugating…

My poetics, in its growing inclusiveness, is not sad but hopeful.

The term “conjugation” refers to more than the obvious grammatical movement of pronouns through time (I am / you are / they will be). For, in Biology, it also refers to the transfer of information between cells. And Conjugation, the new collection of poetry from award-winning poet Phil Hall, sees an open realm where individual letters inside a word are each rolling through their possibilities, from A to Z. Thereby, the language in this collection travels into and out of itself, as Hall says, “escaping my ego, while revealing, word by slightly different word, my deeper connections and disconnections to things—to what used to be called poetry’s ‘subjects.'”

As much care was taken with the writing of this collection as the shaping of the poems themselves. Replete with images of the natural world and in some cases, the mechanisms that transform it-horses, leaping fish, trees, canals and locks—Conjugation signals a return to the nature/nurture elements that have wound their way through his earlier collections, but also a versed ode to the discouragement that many Canadians have felt about the progression of their country and government over the past number of years.

Praise for Phil Hall:

“These are poems of ferocity and humility, of vulnerability and wit, poems whose skilled complexities elucidate the lyric disturbance of melody, memory and self. Grasping his intimate line like a kind of loved and fortuitous hand-tool, what Hall constructs is a voice that attends to the familial and psychic histories submerged in landscape, in all their bitterness and gorgeousness. There is a rough amplitude in his compositional principle: that ‘between the body & language/ a ravine of call and response.’ In this work, out of the uncertainty and lag of dailiness comes the knowledge that although precision isn’t always simple, by the precise ear we may arrive at the heart.” —Judges’ citation for Killdeer, Griffin Poetry Prize, 2006

“Phil Hall has come, by strife with words and their embedded values, to a technique of compression that reminds of Paul Celan’s knotted poems: they beam straight through the skull… Poetry that recalls the organs of the body, that invents and compounds verbs, nouns and adjectives to reach toward what cannot be spoken, only named, if we use all the names, without censoring our hands’ flutter.” —Erín Moure


“His gaze is not simply inward: these meditative poems take in the rural landscape of Eastern Ontario, the words of writers whose influence he honours and the nature of language itself. Like an auto mechanic working on an engine, Hall takes words and phrases apart, examines how they work, and tinkers.” —Barb Carey, Toronto Star

“Hall’s poetry manages a deep and serious play in the way words are constructed, pulling apart the mechanics of language and how it interacts with ideas” —rob mclennan’s blog

Conjugation is a major addition to a major oeuvre.” —Douglas Barbour, Eclectic Ruckus

Conjugation is another strong and engaging collection from the award-winning Hall.” —Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

“In Conjugation, Hall interrogates the language in which the past is written, scraping into the words themselves, but removing their ability to hurt.” —Joseph Labine, Arc Poetry Magazine

“Hall’s stylistics are elliptic, polysemous, kinetic, cubist, animated by cutting wit, acutely aware.” —Karl Jirgens, Canadian Literature

Interviews and Profiles:

Phil Hall takes the Magic 8 Q&A —CBC Books

15 Poetry Collections You Need to Read This Spring —CBC Books

Granny, Will Your Dog Bite: An Interview with Phil Hall —IFOA Blog

Queen’s Mob Review of 2016 rob mclennan, Queen’s Mob

A ‘best of’ list of 2016 Canadian poetry books rob mclennan’s blog


Phil Hall is a writer, editor, and teacher. His first book, Eighteen Poems, was published in 1973. Among his many published titles are: Old Enemy Juice (1988); The Unsaid (1992); Hearthedral-A Folk-Hermetic (1996); An Oak Hunch (2005); White Porcupine (Book*hug, 2007); Killdeer (Book*hug, 2011; winner of the 2011 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the 2012 Trillium Book Award, and shortlisted for the 2012 Griffin Poetry Prize); The Small Nouns Crying Faith (Book*hug, 2013); Guthrie Clothing: The Poetry of Phil Hall, a Selected Collage (2015); and My Banjo and Tiny Drawings (2015). Hall has taught writing at York University, Ryerson University, Seneca College, George Brown College, and elsewhere. Phil lives with his wife near Perth, Ontario.