The Astonishing Room

by Brian Bartlett

Brian Bartlett’s eighth collection of poems is one of the strongest in his long career. Those who love his poetry already will be happy to find Bartlett’s acute observations, wit and structural variety on full display. Readers new to his work will be won over by its wide-eyed awe, dazzling register shifts, and mesmerizingly affectionate voices. The poet addresses a dogwood tree, a flycatcher and a sixteenth-century pope, and speaks as father, son and citizen. The Astonishing Room can be thought of as a long conversation with mortality and death. Its longest poem, “Our Father in His Nineties,” gathers together moving close-ups of a man gracefully facing the end of life. Whether set by seashores or in forests, a lawyer’s office or an antique shop, Bartlett’s book surprises us with its capacity for facing hard truths, as well as for celebration and gratitude.

This book is scheduled for public release in October, but is available now for pre-order. Books pre-ordered will ship as soon as we receive copies from the printer.

SKU: 9781989466803 Categories: , ,

$19.95 CAD

Additional information

Weight .192 kg
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 0.375 in
Page Count



Soft Cover with flaps

Year Published


Brian Bartlett

Brian Bartlett’s seven earlier collections of poetry include The Watchmaker’s Table, The Afterlife of Trees, and Granite Erratics. He has also published several books of nature writing and a gathering of his prose on poetry. His work has received The Atlantic Poetry Prize, the Acorn-Plantos Award for People’s Poetry, and two Malahat Review Long Poem Prizes. The many books edited by him include Alden Nowlan’s Collected Poems. After long periods living in New Brunswick and Montreal, Bartlett moved to Halifax/Kjipuktuk in 1990, and taught for three decades at Saint Mary’s University. He has kept a daily journal for many years.

This new collection by Brian Bartlett is so dignified, so moving, and so highly crafted in its imaginative praise of mortality, family, the natural word, and the act of reading that at every turn it is a clear poetic triumph and a rare gift to us.
~ Russell Thornton

The Astonishing Room is a pleasure to read—full of wisely cadenced observation, with “eyes open to the maximum.” There’s mortality here, the passing of time and generations. The poems express deep kinship with the day-to-day world as well as awareness of “the ocean at the horizon, / smudged by light, expectant” that lies beyond our individual lives.
~ Alice Major

Brian Bartlett’s new poetry is a warm, measured astonishment. Measured in the crafting of phrases and rhythms, measured in the breadth of its take on earthly life, warm in its wisdom, joy and sorrow. One poem in The Astonishing Room records a vain dream to be “a leader only in eloquence, / whose brain, heart, lungs, tongue and lips / communed in perfect unity, clear as / sunlight in springwater.” But Bartlett does achieve his dream!
~ A.F. Moritz