PRICE, Steven

Author Tags: Fiction, Poetry

Having studied writing at the University of Virginia, Colwood, B.C.-born and raised Steven Price published his first collection of poetry, Anatomy of Keys (Brick Books 2006) while teaching poetry at the University of Victoria. The inspirational subject for Price's book-length poem is Harry Houdini. The collection was shortlisted for the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize, won the Gerald Lampert Award and was named a Globe Book of the Year. It was translated into French, German and Hungarian.

In the aftermath of an earthquake that devastates Victoria, leaving few survivors, Arthur Lear emerges from the rubble and desperately tries to rescue a mother and son trapped beneath the mounds of broken concrete. That's the opening for Steven Price's novel, Into the Darkness (Thomas Allen 2011). As civility also crumbles around them, this trio searches for the mother's missing daughter, trying to rescue hope within a landscape that breeds fear and despair. Price's first novel was launched at the UVic Bookstore in March of 2011. “From the tsunami in Southeast Asia," he says, "to the earthquakes in Japan, Turkey, China, Haiti and New Zealand, to the eruptions in Iceland and the horror of Hurricane Katrina—it was all echoing in the background while I was writing this book.” The novel also has its origins in an earlier urban disaster, dating back to the terrorist attacks in New York City. “I was in grad school in Virginia when 9/11 struck," he says, "and the sudden proximity of the disaster and the shift from a peaceable society to a society under siege left its impact."

Price's second volume of poetry is Omens in the Year of the Ox (Brick Books 2012). According to his publisher's publicity materials: "Steven Price’s second collection is part of a long-lived struggle to address the mysteries that both surround and inhabit us. The book draws together moments both contemporary and historical, ranging from Herodotus to Augustine of Hippo, from a North American childhood to Greek mythology; indeed, the collection is threaded with interjections from a Greek-style chorus of clever-minded, mischievous beings—half-ghost, half-muse—whose commentaries tormentingly egg the writer on. In poems that range from free verse to prose to formal constructions, Price addresses the moral lack in the human heart and the labour of living with such a heart. Yet the Hopkins-like, sonorous beauty of the language reveals “grace and the idea of grace everywhere, in spite of what we do.” The pleasures of Price’s musicality permeate confrontation with even the darkest of human moments; the poems thus surreptitiously remind us that to confront our own darkness is one of the divine acts of which humans are capable."

After B.C. novelists John Gray and Ian Weir tried setting dark, suspense novels set in 19th century London, Steven Price has followed suit with a highly touted novel edited by Ellen Seligman, partially set in London during the 1880s. By Gaslight (2016) involves murder and mayhem with detective William Pinkerton embroiled in mysteries that lead the reader to the battlefields of the U.S. Civil War and the diamond mines of South Africa in the 1890s.

Steven Price is married to novelist Esi Edugyan. He was instrumental in the process that resulted in her second novel, Half-Blood Blues, being published in Canada by Thomas Allen, his publisher. Half-Blood Blues soon afterwards won the Giller Prize in 2011.


Anatomy of Keys (Brick Books 2006)
Into the Darkness (Thomas Allen 2011) $22.95 978-0-88762-737-8
Omens in the Year of the Ox (Brick Books 2012). $19 978-1-926829-76-0
By Gaslight (Penguin Random House 2016)

[BCBW 2016]