Tar Swan is a multi-voiced reckoning that surveys the mythos of the Alberta oil sands with an approach that is both lyrical and experimental. The poems feature four voices: an oil sands developer, his plant mechanic, an archaeologist excavating the remains of the operation in the present day, and a mythical swan. David Martin’s debut collection is comprised of expansive and richly written poems, built on a lore-laden language, which explore the human and environmental cost of drawing too much from the land. As the three humans come into contact with the otherworldly swan, the voices bubble and churn together, and what is distilled is a psychological breakdown paralleling the toll taken on the earth.
“Through its daring, and brilliantly challenging, use of diction, syntax and imagery, it embodies the best of contemporary experimental verse. ‘Tar Swan’ urgently speaks to central concerns of our time, particularly here in Canada: the consequences of coal and oil extraction, environmental degradation, and our responsibility to the natural world.”
“James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, said: ‘A demon of rotation is loose in the world.’ David Martin knows that the demon is now powered by petroleum, and he tracks it to the Alberta Tar Sands. Martin’s poems fuse research, myth and human drama into a blazing work of art.”