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The Gun That Starts the Race
The Gun That Starts the Race

The Gun That Starts the Race

64 pages
Published:   March 17, 2015
Poetry  /  icehouse poetry
Paperback:   9780864928665    $19.95

The Gun That Starts the Race, alternately like a David Lynch film or an episode of The Simpsons, finds the uncanny in the everyday, surprise you, make you laugh and weep (sometimes simultaneously) with recognition at the fleeting spark of our existence. Many of these poems are like archaeological sites between the sturm und drang of people's fleeting dramas, exploring in language playgrounds recently vacated, graves recently inhabited, basements and dark corners where life and death goes on without us.

From free-verse lyrics to masterful sonnets, Norman's poems weld form and content together organically. They neither baffle nor condescend. Blending an effortless style to surprising metaphors, and striking images with a restless, roving intellect, they try to get to the bottom of things, while never satisfied there it is no false bottom. Here, Bolsheviks play tennis with Marxist rules; crows, maggots, and spiders go about their business, oblivious to our sufferings; and the Mole Men of Zug break into song.

In The Gun that Starts the Race, Peter Norman gives us a world that lives and breathes and endures, and of which we are only a temporary part.
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Peter Norman is the author of two poetry collections, Water Damage and At the Gates of the Theme Park (shortlisted for the 2010 Trillium Poetry Book Award), and a novel, Emberton. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The Walrus and two editions of Best Canadian Poetry.


"Peter Norman's The Gun That Starts the Race is sensually evocative and rich in imagery. Many of the poems bounce, like a stone skipping across the water's surface." — Scene

"The Gun That Starts the Race takes aim and never misses. No word is wasted or feels out of place. Norman hits the bull's-eye with every killer lyric. These poems are sardonic, mordant, and ironic in a suck-it-up sense. But the subjects that Norman worries come wrapped in wit. Like Sylvia Plath, he sees existence as a caustic comedy, the beautiful flesh bathed in acid. So, 'an itch indicates healing, you think. / The kisses of an unseen porcupine / or acupunctured rat,' Beware. For Norman, 'Paradise' is a virtual anagram of 'despair.'" — George Elliott Clarke

"The Gun that Starts the Race is a bang on (pun intended) title for this impressive new collection from a poet of imminence and aftermath. As vigorous in execution as they are detached in tone, Peter Norman's poems are finely formed odes to defining absences. He's a singular writer whose poems linger, riddling." — Stephanie Bolster