"Don McKay's Another Gravity--which has won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize and the Governor-General's Award--is the work of a poetic virtuoso who is not averse to giving us clues about how to live and how to write." -- Gary Geddes

Don McKay was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1942. He received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Western Ontario; and a Ph.D in Wales. He and Stan Dragland started Brick Books in 1975. He remains as an editor with Brick Books and he edited the Fiddlehead magazine from 1991 to 1996. He taught creative writing and English at the University of Western Ontario and the University of New Brunswick for 27 years. He has also served as a faculty resource person at the Sage Hill Writing Experience, the Banff Centre for the Arts and the BC Festival of the Arts. He moved to Victoria where he was an adjunct professor at UVic's Department of Writing, but later returned east to live in St. John's Newfoundland, while also incorporating a stint as associate director of poetry at the Banff Centre of the Arts in 2008. In 2009 he was appointed a member of the Order of Canada. While living in St. John's Don McKay won the 2011 BMO Winterset Award for his collection of essays, The Shell of the Tortoise, awarded in 2012.

McKay has won the Governor General's Award for Poetry twice, in 1991 for Night Field and in 2000 for Another Gravity. He received the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry in 1984 for Birding, Or Desire. His book Vis à Vis: Fieldnotes on Poetry and Wilderness was nominated for the Governor General's Award in the Non-fiction category and he has been shortlisted for the Griffin Prize for Camber (2004). In 2007, Charles Wright's Scar Tissue and Don McKay's Strike/Slip were named the International and Canadian winners of the seventh annual Griffin Poetry Prize. The $100,000 Griffin Poetry Prize, the richest poetry prize in the world for a single volume of poetry, is divided between the two winners.

McKay is an avid birdwatcher. In May of 2008, Rattling Books of Tors Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador released an audio collection, Songs for the Songs of Birds, a collection of poems written and narrated by Don McKay to celebrate the way birds "articulate the air."

In six movements of prose and poetry, his Deactivated West 100 (2005) explores and examines a sense of place amid Vancouver Island wilderness and "in the scheme of infinite time." He says the background for the book is a fault line on southern Vancouver Island known as the Loss Creek-Leech River fault. "I decided, as part of my apprenticeship to west coast landscapes, to walk the fault from end to end and take note of whatever it presented to me in terms of rocks, plants, animals, birds (of course) and human history. A lot of walking was done on the old deactivated bush road which follows Loss Creek and gives the books its title. Since the area has been very aggressively logged, this also led me into the history and politics of forestry hereabouts--including technological advances like the Shay locomotive and the Stihl chainsaw."

McKay took a similar approach to exploring the Muskwa-Kechikan region in northern B.C., framed by the Toad River in the north and the Tuchodi Lakes to the south, for The Muskwa Assemblage (2008). The work arose from an 'art-camp' organized by Donna Kane and Wayne Sawchuk in August of 2006 to direct aesthetic attention to an unspoiled, wild eco-system.


Moccasins on Concrete: Poems. Montreal: Content Publishing, 1972.
Air Occupies Space. Windsor, Ont.: Sesame Press, 1973.
Long Sault. London: Ontario: Applegarth Follies, 1975.
Lependu. Ilderton, Ontario: Nairn Publishing, 1978.
Lightning Ball Bait. Coach House Press, 1980.
Birding, or Desire. McClelland and Stewart, 1983.
Sanding Down this Rocking Chair on a Windy Night. McClelland and Stewart, 1987.
Night Field: Poems. McClelland and Stewart, 1991.
Apparatus. McClelland & Stewart, 1997.
Another Gravity. McClelland & Stewart, 2000
Vis à Vis: Fieldnotes on Poetry and Wilderness. Gaspereau Press, 2001
Camber: Selected Poems. M&S, 2004
Deactivated West 100. Gaspereau Press, 2005.
Strike/Slip. McClelland & Stewart, 2006.
The Muskwa Assemblage (Gaspereau, 2008).
The Shell of the Tortoise (Gaspereau, 2011).


Cook, Méira, editor. Field Marks: The Poetry of Don McKay (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2006).

[BCBW 2012] "Poetry"