The Tongues of Earth

The Tongues of Earth: New and Selected Poems

Coteau Books, 2015

Shortlisted for the 2016 Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry.

To quote the publisher: “Along with the finest pieces from his three previous books, often in revised form, The Tongues of Earth includes 20 new poems. Known as a writer of place, in The Tongues of Earth Abley extends his range over time and history. These poems are distinguished by their combination of clarity and grace, high intelligence and deep feeling. Poems such as “Mother and Son”, “Labrador” and “Glasburyon” are the work of a literary artist with few peers in Canada. To those who have known Abley only as a prose writer, this book will come as a revelation.”

From a review by the Anglo-Indian poet Shanta Acharya, in the online journal London Grip:
“At ease with both traditional and postmodern forms, he writes about intimacy, parenthood, growing-up, death and loss, language, nature with a deep understanding of the human condition …. Like all major works of art, The Tongues of Earth reveals its secrets when read again.”

Michael Dennis, in his Today’s Book of Poetry blog:
“Abley has a very consistent tone and voice but multiple personalities, luckily for us readers — they are all razor sharp…. These poems leave me a little punch-drunk. There are many, many poems in The Tongues of Earth that are simply startlingly good.”

Bert Almon, in the Montreal Review of Books:

“Mark Abley’s The Tongues of Earth is a rich sampling of his three earlier books with some new poems. Abley is best known for his excellent non-fiction, but he also understands the craft of poetry, particularly the use of traditional forms … Abley’s work has substance, and the substance has form. This is a book to read, and read again.”

And from Shelley A. Leedahl in SaskBook Reviews:

“If you are a master poet and thus possess the literary chops, numerous book publications, and the lifetime inquisitiveness that’s required, one day a publisher may honour you by releasing your ‘New and Selected Poems.’ This is the pinnacle, and I commend Coteau Books for recognizing that Montreal poet, journalist, editor and non-fiction writer Mark Abley is worthy of such a title. The Tongues of Earth represents the best of what poetry can do: enlighten, entertain, empathize, and lift us from our familiarity for moments at a time to offer a bird’s eye view – or an insider’s view – into what it might be like to live a different life … This is masterful writing. Friends, if you read only one book of poetry this year, The Tongues of Earth would be an excellent choice.”

Unfortunately the publisher went out of existence a few years after The Tongues of Earth appeared. If you would like to purchase a copy, please use the Contact page on this site.