Here Is Where We Disembark

by Clea Roberts

September 2010
6 x 9 paper 90 pages
ISBN 978-1-55111-851-2
US $16.95 | CDN $16.95

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Finalist for the 2011 Gerald Lampert Award
Longlisted for the 2011 ReLit Award
Longlisted for the 2011 Alberta Readers Choice Award

With her remarkable debut collection, Yukon poet Clea Roberts proffers a perceptive & ecological reading of the Canadian North’s past & present.

Roberts deftly draws out the moments that comprise a cycle of seasons, paying as much attention to the natural—the winter moon’s second-hand light that pools in the tracks of tree squirrels & loose threads of migrating birds—as she does to the manufactured—the peripheral percussion of J-brakes & half-melted ice lanterns. She also casts her gaze back to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898, raising the voices of those marked by a frenetic race for fortune: a seductive, edgy wolf, a disillusioned photographer, and a pragmatic prostitute, among others.

Here Is Where We Disembark is a beautifully crafted book that ignites the senses, and its presence lingers, like woodsmoke, long after the final page has been turned.

Download a Reader’s Guide for this book.



“If Winter were to write a book of poems, it might look like this: spare, minimalist, each phrase stark and self-complete on its own line, the short poems compacted like snow under its own weight… The ethos of Roberts’ writing is ecological, taking only what is needful, retrieving more from less. Survival is a major theme, but there is a transcending joy and beauty in these poems. Throughout the work, the poet holds the tension between the small edge of human settlements, where ‘light becomes finite and coveted’ in winter, and the vastness of the terrain: ‘the bright arteries of poplars / holding all the world’s / light and space in their branches.'” – Malahat Review

“Her spare, image-driven lines and Zen-like incorporation of natural elements (which often lead to metaphysical, quasi-spiritual revelations: ‘The last light the residue / of a million years’ journey / has been creeping / toward me, always’) show the influence of Chinese and Japanese verse, and are reminiscent of John Thompson’s poetry.” – Quill & Quire

“Her images of the landscape and climate are not only crisp and precise, but manage to speak about the physical conditions of this place and its emotional landscape in one and the same lyrical breath… One cannot help but think of past Canadian masters when reading Roberts’ vivid portrait… Roberts writes with a rare and haunting musicality.” – Judges’ comments, Gerald Lampert Award

“Yukon poet Clea Roberts writes tight little nuggets of poems, small gems of a personal take on life in Canada’s north.” – Saskatoon Star Phoenix

“It’s exciting to see such cohesiveness and range in a first collection. With haiku-spare density, Roberts’ intricate lyrics accumulate into grand gestures of longing… her imagistic portals open up to a much deeper and complex inquiry: one of humanness, wilderness, the nature/possibility of territory, how it is we come to claim ourselves, and inversely, how the land can come to claim us. Roberts’ lively anthropomorphisms are a particular treat.” – Winnipeg Free Press

“Roberts adapts the language and form of her poems to rest delicately and responsively—as well as responsibly—between origin and silence: ‘the boots were rated to -50 C / —you wore an extra pair of socks.'” – The Goose

“Roberts does take risks, in subject matter, language and perspective, often blurring the boundaries between animate and inanimate, self and other, conscious and dream. And she wins.” – Subterrain Magazine

“There is a northerly edge to Clea Roberts’ poems, and it extends past the obvious content. It has to do with exquisite frost-bitten brevities; it has to do with imagining northern space with scrupulous musically-tuned attention; and—not least—it has to do with an awareness of snow’s ‘convincing logic’, capable of pulling you ‘softly/into a ditch’ and sending explanations of ‘eider and light’. These are poems whose delight lies in seeing, and listening, afresh.” – Don McKay

“You know you’ve found a real poet when she observes that mud, in a Yukon springtime, was ‘never so exotic, / tracked across the kitchen floor.’ Clea Roberts has taken the time to learn the craft, make her peace with metaphor, and carve out her own space, becoming as comfortable with the meditative lyric as she is with a raft of wonderful personas.” – Gary Geddes

“These luminous poems invite us to step into the ineluctable, into the spaces murmuring between the domestic and the untameable.  From many perspectives—historical, social, biological—Roberts’ keen poetic intelligence imagines an ecology of inclusion that the landscape of the north, or of any particular ‘here,’ calls us to.” – Sharon Thesen

“Southern readers will appreciate Disembark for the clarity of Roberts’ writing, which is reminiscent of the work of fellow nature poet Don McKay. They’ll peek into Yukoners’ nooks and crannies, in the way that readers viewed Newfoundland through John Steffler’s The Grey Islands. And, although Roberts offers southern Canadians keen images of the Yukon, we are the ones who will identify most with them.” – What’s Up Yukon

“Roberts’ collection Here is Where We Disembark has a different emotional quality, one of contemplation and curiosity. The book is comprised of two sections, one that transitions through the seasons in poems about domestic life in Canada’s north, and the other that explores the people and landscape during the Klondike Gold Rush of the nineteenth century. The most striking feature of the poems in the first section, in which the speaker interacts with all aspects of her environment from the gardens to the incoming mail, is the sense of atmosphere that they build. The landscape is part of that atmosphere, and so is the quiet and focused nature of the contemplative voice. In a particularly evocative description, the speaker imparts the experience of distance as winter sets in: You were suddenly content / with your diminishing, / frayed boundaries / —the weather, its intent / and randomness / too big for you. As spring unfolds, it brings with it a sense of hopefulness. Even though this is a theme that readers have seen many times before, the nuance of Roberts’ voice creates the sense that the elements of spring are entirely new. In Seasonal Adjustments, so many things grow / unasked / Garlic in the kitchen / crocus in the compost. / And love, it waits in the cupboard / with the potatoes / its eyes exploding with flowers.” – Canadian Literature