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Prose collection by Faculty of Arts poet ‘an archaeological dig’

Research | Books at Memorial

Showcasing a use of language as vivid, precise and supple as that in her award-winning poetry, Mary Dalton’s latest publication reflects the range of a major Canadian poet’s interests and influences and celebrates connections between people and place in her native Newfoundland and Labrador.

Edge collects 30 years of essays, reviews and interviews in which the professor of English at Memorial explores margins in literature and culture.

“The book reflects some of my preoccupations … over the years,” said Prof. Dalton. “It considers the writing, visual art, and theatre of Newfoundland; of some contemporary Canadian poets; and the work of some European writers whose art has gripped my imagination: Samuel Beckett and I. Compton-Burnett.”

As author and Memorial creative writing instructor Lisa Moore puts it: “Mary Dalton’s Edge is as personal, witty, incisive, political, spontaneous and supremely crafted as any vivisection of Newfoundland can possibly be. Here are decades of the territory’s artistic expression―poetry, literature, theatre, music, and language itself―as well as the roots of that culture, explored with searing intelligence and anarchic pleasure.”

Former Memorial writer-in-residence and internationally renowned poet Don McKay is another significant literary voice to award accolades to Edge.

“Mary Dalton’s criticism is genial in a double sense―both ‘conducive to growth’ and ‘pertaining to genius.’ That genius is alive in her astute, scrupulously judged comments in contexts that range from local theatre reviews to scholarly essays on Samuel Beckett: it’s a fineness of listening, inviting us to read alongside, companions of a learned, dedicated and affable guide.

“As the interviews make clear, that ardent listening derives in large measure from her immersion in the Newfoundland vernacular, and a lifelong dedication to its ‘vigour and musical beauty’ as well as its earthy ‘fizz and spit.’ It’s evident in the zest, the singing vein that runs as a deep current through these writings, re-rooting critical discourse in live speech. Various educators in Mary Dalton’s past have attempted to ‘correct’ her accent, launder her vocabulary and deny legitimacy to the Newfoundland tongue. Thank god they failed.”

Prof. Dalton says putting together the collection has been in some ways like “conducting an archaeological dig.”

“Revisiting buried publications, I’ve been struck by my fascination with those who… dance on the edge.”

To hear an interview with Prof. Dalton on CBC’s Weekend Arts Magazine, please listen here.

To hear an interview with Prof. Dalton on CBC’s The Next Chapter, please listen here.

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