The Gun That Starts the Race

Publisher: icehouse poetry (Goose Lane Editions)

Year: 2015

Genre: Poetry

What's It About? This wide-ranging selection takes us literally all over the map, and beyond—settings include the Middle East, the Canadian prairies, the moon, and the grave. Populated with human statues, love-lorn astronauts, drug dealers, and a stubborn avocado, Gun pries humour and sadness from the fantastical and from the everyday. 

Where Can I Buy It? Here.

What the Critics Say:

"His writing displays a raw, feverish quality, and the cracking pace rarely lets up. The language is dense and chewy, the taut lines made lively with alliteration, rhyme, and rhythm. Lexically rich, the poems show range and a real flair for the dramatic . . . 'Bolshevik Tennis' is mind-bendingly fresh and hilarious—perhaps the funniest poem I've read, ever . . . these poems will leave you glad to be alive." — Anouk H. Henri, Malahat Review (full review here)

"Consistent with the spirit of its title, Peter Norman's third collection of poetry unfolds with a bang . . . a collection that crackles and pops with moxie and unexpected tenderness." — Alexandra Oliver, Arc Poetry (full review here)

"The book’s dark humour snaps along with formalist verve (Norman has to be one of my favourite sonneteers writing right now). Almost every stanza contains tight little sound/sense earworms . . . In a climate of signal-jamming and piled non-sequiturs, Norman bucks the trend and constructs small narratives with syntactic panache and surrealist turns that show 'the old mundane/ reversed.'" — Danny Jacobs, Partisan Magazine Year in Books (full review here)

"Startling . . . Norman's poetry balances density with airiness, and makes such tight interleaving of imagery seem effortless. Full of humour and verve, Norman's poems cross the finish line as others are just starting their sprint." — Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press (full review here)

"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 . . . Norman is at his best when he lowers his poetic voice to a whisper, inviting the reader to lean forward and listen. He has the eye of a photographer, ever-insightful and illuminative."  — Amy Andersen, Scene

"My new discovery of 2015 was Peter Norman and his The Gun that Starts the Race: some fine, resonant sonnets packed with brio and skill—plus a sense of humour that can veer off into joyous nonsense." — Richard Sanger, Partisan Magazine Year in Books (full review here)

"Sparked with mordant humour and a coupled sound/sense mastery . . . Norman has achieved that rare thing in poetry at any time: a startling vision which is passionately ordered and realized." — Brian Palmu (full review here)

Other Endorsements:

"The Gun That Starts the Race takes aim and never misses. No word is wasted or feels out of place. Peter Norman hits the bull's-eye with every killer lyric. His verses take as Gospel the Genesis curses: That, to eat, we must labour; that childbirth will be agonizing and only a preface to a life of toil, sorrow, injury, disease, infirmity, and death. These poems are sardonic, mordant, and ironic in a suck-it-up sense. But the subjects that Norman worries come wrapped in wit. The poet that Norman resembles—in mood and mastery—is none other than Sylvia Plath. Like her, Norman 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.'  Well, 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