Stephen Collis teaches poetry, poetics, modernism and American literature at Simon Fraser University. His collection On the Material (2010) is described as a meditation on language, geography, socio-economics and the body. It received the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2011.

As a descendant of Scottish coal miners who came to Vancouver Island in the late 1800s, poet Stephen Collis first wrote Mine (New Star, 2001), a reconstruction of the early history of the B.C. coal industry. It was followed by Anarchive (New Star, 2005), an investigation into the connection between anarchy and poetry, partially inspired by the Spanish Civil War.

Collis wandered backwards in time even further for The Commons (Talonbooks 2008), an anarchy-inspired exploration of how commonly-held lands were essentially privatized in the English countryside. Amid the peasant revolts that failed to prevent the enclosure of land in the name of private ownership, Collis includes cameo appearances from the mad poet John Clare and back-to-the-land philosopher Henry David Thoreau.

Collins has also edited Companions & Horizons (2005), an anthology including the work of 41 poets associated with the university, in conjunction with SFU's 40th birthday. "It's interesting to see the poetry unique to SFU," he said. "--a poetry that's distinctly intellectual, investigative, erotic, emotional and yet playful."

Collis' critical study, Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks, 2007), examines Webb's work in relation to 20th century poetics and social movements. More of an homage than an intimate investigation, Stephen Collis' Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (Talon 2018) delivers as a collection of poetic, political and philosophical digressions for readers who are already familiar with one of Salt Spring Island's most venerable seniors. Collis' style is often like a personal journal, rather than a public one. "More than twenty-five years after the poetry-writing Phyllis Webb ceased,"; he writes, "the wordless poet Phyllis Webb carries on, seems-permanently indefinite."; We learn more about Collis than about Webb. But the tribute is made. Respect one's elders.

To the Barricades (Talon 2013) looks at the shifting strategies of revolt and protest in contemporary social justice campaigns such as the Occupy movement and Idle No More. It is described as a collection of social lyrics and serial explorations "to drive apathy from the field" and recover forgotten radical ideas.

Described as fiction in the tradition of Borges, Nabokov, and Bolaáo, The Red Album (Book Thug 2013) in another work by Stephen Collis that examines historical authenticity and authority. "As the ghosts of social revolutions of the past are lifted from the soil in Catalonia, and a new revolution unfolds in South America," the story is complicated by a growing maze of author/characters.

At the end of 2014, Stephen Collis served as a spokesperson for land defenders who disrupted survey work to protect parts of Burnaby Mountain, on unceded Coast Salish territories, against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. After Kinder Morgan served the obstructionists with a $5.6 million dollar lawsuit, a legal defence fund was created to support the legal costs for Collis, Adam Gold, Mia Nissen and Lynne Quarmby, among others, who defended their rights to protest in hearings held November 5-7 at the Supreme Court of B.C.

Collis & Co. eventually "won"; this environmental battle after it was discovered Kinder Morgan had given the RCMP incorrect GPS coordinates so that the invisible "line"; that protesters were not supposed to cross was nowhere near where it was meant to be. The judge threw out all the charges and refused to give Kinder Morgan an extension for their drilling. The U.S.-based Kinder Morgan cut its losses and hurriedly helicoptered out all its exploratory drilling equipment. There is already one pipeline that brings tar-sands bitumen to the port of Vancouver. "Twinning"; with a second tunnel could triple the amount of bitumen shipped through Vancouver by Kinder Morgan.

"We are at a point in history when people,l" said Collis, "have to stand up for what they believe, and stand up to defend their local environments, and the global environment too. I'm glad that is what we did in this case, but I also know we will have to do this again before long."

Once in Blockadia (Talonbooks 2016) is constructed of four sequences, two evolving from found texts that relate to the blockade of the flood of commodities into the Port of Vancouver, and the other blockade stopping the potential flow of oil out of Vancouver, both of which Collis was involved in. The other two sequences are two long poems that engage with the poet William Woodsworth and attempts to explain the barricades and the complexities of their purpose. This book was shortlisted for the 2017 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Dispatches From The Occupation: A History of Change


The Birth of Blue (Chapbook 1997)
Anima/lung (Chapbook 1998)
Mine (New Star 2001)
Anarchive (New Star 2005)
Companions & Horizons (2005). Editor.
Blackberries (Chapbook 2005)
Through the Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism (ELS Editions 2006)
Phyllis Webb and the Common Good (Talonbooks 2007) 978-0-88922-559-6 $24.95
The Commons (Talonbooks 2008) 978-0-88922-580-0 $16.95
On the Material (Talonbooks 2010) 0889226326 $17.95
To the Barricades (Talonbooks 2013) 978-0-88922-747-7 $16.95
The Red Album (Book Thug 2013) 9781927040652 $24
Once in Blockadia (Talonbooks 2016) ISBN 978-1-77201-015-2, $18.95
Almost Islands: Phyllis Webb and the Pursuit of the Unwritten (Talon 2018) $24.95 978-1-77201-207-1


On the Material - Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize 2011

[BCBW 2018]