P. K. PAGE

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Browse this page for information about P. K. Page, including links to articles, videos and audio interviews.

Image from Mexican Journal

‘Elegant, rigorous, fresh, P. K. Page’s work sings with a voice of independent character and maenad conjecture. It is a creature that lives on its own terms and terrain. It is startling, authoritative, and anti-sentimental, able to bear cool as well as passionate gazing at our own species. Her poems are always thinking—each line is thinking, while its six senses remain impeccably alert. Her poems live by wit, wisdom, sass, suspense and a muscular lissome synapse and diction. They are daring in scope, meticulous in accomplishment, and boldly moral—with a lovely flavour of amoral verve! We fall under the charm of her reasoning, of her fecund, fastidious imagination, of her many musics, and of her necessariness to us, her essentialness.’

— Griffin Prize citation (for Coal and Roses)

 

BIOGRAPHY

P. K. Page

Born in England and brought up on the Canadian prairies, P. K. Page wrote some of the best poems published in Canada over the last five decades. She won the Governor General's Award for poetry in 1957, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1999. She wrote more than a dozen books, including ten volumes of poetry, a novel, several short stories, eight books for children, and two memoirs, entitled Brazilian Journal and Mexican Journal, based on her experiences in Brazil and Mexico as wife to Canadian Ambassador Arthur Irwin. A two-volume edition of Page's collected poems, The Hidden Room, was published in 1997.

In addition to writing, Page painted, under the name P. K. Irwin, mounting one-woman shows in Mexico and Canada. Her work is represented in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Victoria Art Gallery, among others.

Page died on the 14th of January, 2010.

 

PUBLICATIONS

Mexican Journal Mexican Journal
ISBN 978-0-88984-364-6

In Mexican Journal, P. K. Page recounts her experiences as wife to the Canadian ambassador to Mexico in the early 1960s. Raw, bluntly honest and at times painfully intense, the journal entries expose Page's attempts to overcome troubling phobias and spiritual barrenness. Over time, she discovers colour amid the darkness, immersing herself in Mexican culture, surrealism, and, most importantly, the mystical teachings of Sufism, which would inform her spiritual life for the rest of her career.

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Brazilian Journal Brazilian Journal
ISBN 978-0-88984-347-9

In Brazilian Journal P.K. Page is a breathless visitor on another planet, seeing every living creature as equal in wonder. A diplomat's rage is as intriguing as that of a marmoset. The finery on the wings of a passing insect is on par with the ball gown of a general's wife. Political dilemmas exist alongside intricate social melodrama. And because she was learning how and how not to live in a foreign country this book is a fabulous and witty and compassionate ars poetica.’

—Michael Ondaatje

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This book has been course adopted at Dalhousie University.

 

Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope
ISBN 978-0-88984-331-8

‘There's something in this collection to spark new interest, remind those familiar with [Page's] well-loved lines and introduce readers to her evolving style over the years. From the dazzling word-work of the early poems, to the gorgeous complexity of her glosas, her skill at fitting line to image and colour to sound is nothing less than stellar—especially in the way she could make rhyme steep in the vowels and tickle at the back of the mind.’

—Heather Craig, St John Telegraph-Journal

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Coal and Roses Coal and Roses
ISBN 978-0-88984-314-1

‘A witty, musical writer, Page is equally at ease musing playfully on the power of imagination, writing of love and loss, or reflecting gravely on the environmental crisis. Though she never shied from darker subjects, Page was at her best when celebrating the sensuous beauty of the world...’

—Barb Carey, Toronto Star

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The Old Woman and the Hen The Old Woman and the Hen
ISBN 978-0-88984-309-7

‘The adults who make children's ... books have a variety of roles. There's the merry uncle who sings and dances and picks you up and whirls you around. There's the wise teacher. There's the responsible parent.... P. K. Page presents another voice, that of the dignified, contained, slightly mysterious grandparent.... She's slightly stern. She expects good behaviour. But ... you know she will take your observations and comments seriously. She won't think you're cute. You will have her full attention.’

Quill & Quire

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The Essential P. K. Page The Essential P. K. Page
selected by Arlene Lampert and Théa Gray
ISBN 0-88984-308-2

‘Facing the fact of Page’s entire oeuvre can be daunting; it contains little apprentice-work, few throwaways. The Essential P. K. Page is in this sense a relief. It’s a reprieve to hold in one’s hand a compact 60 pages featuring the most memorable, most confounding, most rereadable poems written by Page, arranged alphabetically—each allowed its own space, unencumbered by time or category.’

—Anita Lahey, The Malahat Review

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Up on the Roof Up on the Roof
ISBN 978-0-88984-287-8

Up on the Roof contains fiction pieces of a variety of lengths, some as short as a few pages, others full-length stories. By turns tart and contemplative, Page's prose fiction is, like her poetry, fascinated with derivations of perspective, and her use of narrative voice gives her plenty of opportunity to explore a particular penchant for plotting characters undergoing transformation.’

—Tanis MacDonald, Malahat Review

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Hand Luggage Hand Luggage
ISBN 978-0-88984-288-5

‘Historically, people undertaking to write autobiographies have expressed the need to excuse themselves for their presumption.... P. K. Page need supply no apology for her memoir in verse, Hand Luggage. A major poet, her first significant publication dating from 1944, P. K. Page's sheer avidity for existence on earth offers abundant reason for an account of her life.’

—Eric Miller, Malahat Review

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Brazilian Journal A Brazilian Alphabet for the Younger Reader
ISBN 978-0-88984-265-6

This charming compilation, with its textured linen-like pages and sewn binding, is a work of art. Long-forgotten engravings gathered from ancient books and periodicals adorn one side of each double-page spread per letter—delicate grey, tone-on-tone etchings on a butter-cream canvas depict a distant culture. Elegant calligraphy (though at times a challenge to decipher) with its graceful curves represents each letter of the alphabet. Page purposely chose the original Portuguese spellings to complement the 19th-century illustrations.’

— Wendy Kitts, Globe and Mail

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Planet Earth Planet Earth
ISBN 978-0-88984-252-6

Planet Earth brings together works from her long career, and, as such, does an excellent job of underlining Page’s contribution to Canadian literature. Whether she is depicting life's elaborate carnival with broad stokes of language, or precisely dissecting folly with a bladed pen, Page always cuts directly to the heart of the human condition.’

Quill & Quire

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A Kind of Fiction A Kind of Fiction
ISBN 978-0-88984-220-5

‘These stories—some masterful, some apprentice work, all intriguing—cast new light on the work and times and multi-faceted sensibility of a great poet. In the early stories, the young P. K. Page requires propriety and stupidity and other forms of containment to break their moorings and be seen in surreal air. In her fairy tales and fables and heart-breaking, heart-lifting stories of old age and sexual love and vision, she is (simply, spectacularly) transcendant. She understands beauty, and the barriers, and the way through. There is, by the reckoning of my heart, no better teacher in this world.’

—Constance Rooke

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The Hidden Room Volume One The Hidden Room
Volume One
ISBN 978-0-88984-190-1

‘To immerse oneself in these two handsome volumes (elegantly complemented and informed throughout by the drawings and paintings of her “twin sister, / beautiful as Euclid”, the painter P. K. Irwin) is to plunge into a deep-freighted, breaking wave of swirled delights and parlous undertows. It is, as with all such translucent ramparts of desire and abandon, best met head-on. ’

—Richard Outram, The Ottawa Citizen

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The Hidden Room Volume Two The Hidden Room
Volume Two
ISBN 978-0-88984-193-2

‘P. K. Page is a visionary, a descendant of Blake and the alchemist writers. She makes this connection herself in “Request to the Alchemist”: “I am a tin whistle/ Blow through me/ Blow through me/ And make my tin/ Gold”. Like Blake, Page is also an accomplished visual artist and would subscribe to his conviction that “We are led to Believe a Lie/ When we see not Thro’ the Eye.” This is the eye that can see beyond habitual perception, the eye with the power to rend what D. H. Lawrence called the “great umbrella between mankind and Titans in the wild air.” That is why Page quotes Theodore Roszak: “Unless the eye catch fire/ The God will not be seen.”’

Books in Canada

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VIDEOS

P. K. Page on YouTubeCanadian poet P.K. Page reads the poem “Planet Earth” from the collection Planet Earth, published by The Porcupine’s Quill and shortlisted for the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize. (Credit: Griffin Poetry Prize)  YouTube icon


P. K. Page on YouTubeP.K. Page reads from Hologram: A Book of Glosas, Published by Brick Books. Poems read in the video include: “Hologram”, “Autumn”, “Poor Bird”, “In Memoriam”, “Inebriate” and “Planet Earth”. (Credit: Brick Books)  YouTube icon


P. K. Page on YouTubeSandra Djwa talks to Huffington Post about her Governor General’s award-winning biography of P. K. Page, Journey with No Maps.(Credit: Canada Art Channel)  YouTube icon

 

AUDIO INTERVIEW

P. K. Page AudioAudio Interview: Listen to legendary Canadian broadcaster Peter Gzowski’s interview of P. K. Page on CBC Radio’s Morningside. August 17, 1983. (Credit: CBC)

 

RESOURCES

Canadian Poetry OnlineAn excellent reference on all things P. K. Page at the University of Toronto’s Canadian Poetry Online. Includes a biography, a bibliography, sample poems and an extensive collection of other useful information.


Poetry FoundationPoetry Foundation’s website features a short biography of the beloved Canadian poet, as well as a selection of her poetry, articles, a podcast and more.


WikipediaP. K. Page’s Wikipedia entry is a good source of general information on her life and writing. It features categorized list of her works as well as a list of helpful references and links.


WikipediaCBC’s obituary for P. K. Page. It contains photos as well as a short description of her life and work.


Art workBrowse some of Page’s beautiful artwork in Trent University’s collection. Includes a large selection of images of her paintings, drawings and mixed media artworks, from various stages of her life.


Art workSusanna Hood and Scott Thomson created a record called The Muted Note based on the poetry of P. K. Page. You can also view a short documentary of the work on Vimeo.

 

The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.