James Pollock


Griffin Poetry Prize 2013
Canadian Shortlist

Book: Sailing to Babylon

Poet: James Pollock

Publisher: Able Muse Press

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.



James Pollock is the author of Sailing to Babylon, which was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award in Poetry, runner-up for the Posner Poetry Book Award, and winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association; and You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada, a finalist for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award for a collection of essays. He is also editor of The Essential Daryl Hine, which made The Partisan‘s list of the best books of 2015. He earned a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston, and is now Professor of English and Creative Writing at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, where he teaches poetry writing, Shakespeare, Canadian literature, and modern and contemporary American poetry. He lives with his wife and son in Madison, Wisconsin.

Judges’ Citation

“The sentence, in James Pollock’s remarkably assured debut volume, is a unit of music and of time, a carefully modulated choreography that moves the reader through an elegantly constructed set of meditations on place and history and the education of the self — a self we come to know, in part, through the poet’s evocation of a rich company of tutelary spirits: Glenn Gould and Northrop Frye, Henry Hudson and C.P. Cavafy. Quietly confident, formally adept, assured in their music, these artful lyrics are not only an accomplishment in themselves but promise to register, as the poet says, ‘the breaking changes of a life to come’.” – Mark Doty


You will hear in these poems something like the jouncing and ruckus of a wilderness traveller adjusting the gear on his back, steeling his resolve, finding his footings and heading off. In the end, Pollock’s departures are an exploration of that inward Northwest Passage where the borderlines themselves between real and imagined, the present and the past, the found and the lost, seem almost to dissolve—passages, as Pollock says, ‘breaking up within’ — and where, in this anthem of mixed voices, our wondering where home is becomes our wandering where home is … I would almost prefer to be the reviewer, or some boastful exegete revealing to readers one hundred years from now some of the untold treasures that, its many readers notwithstanding, lie hidden here still.” — Jeffery Donaldson taken from the Foreword to Sailing to Babylon

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

James Pollock reads My Grandmother’s Bible

My Grandmother’s Bible

          Mary Pollock, née McConnell (1887-1959)

The shape, the heft, of a shovelful of sod.
A sheaf of God. Its soft-worn pebbled grain

of supple Levant morocco. Two rips
yawn along the spine two inches long,

a strip of leather’s lacking at the top.
The pages, inked in foxed and well-thumbed red

along the fore-edges like a thousand lips,
are gilded on heads and tails, the gilt half-faded.

Out of the biblical plagues of the 1930s,
black storms of dust, vast ravening clouds

of grasshoppers, comes this blasted, smoking heirloom,
a nut-brown flap of torn and weathered leather

wrapping a slab of paper. Its English
plunges into my heart like a small black bird.

From Sailing to Babylon by James Pollock
Copyright © 2012 by James Pollock

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