Lisa Robertson

Poet, Essayist
Born 1961, Toronto, Canada
Lives in Nalliers, France

Photo by Samuel Ace.


Lisa Robertson's work developed among a community of poets and artists in Vancouver, Canada, where she began to publish in the early 1990s. As a long time member of the experimental collective Kootenay School of Writing, an independent bookseller, the editor of little magazines, and a frequent collaborator with visual artists, from the beginning Robertson's work in poetry has been informed by her engagement in art communities as an organizer, essayist, and teacher.

Robertson's published works include 3 Summers (Coach House Books, 2016), her eighth book of poetry, which received extended reviews in Artforum and Los Angeles Review of Books; Occasional Works and Seven Walks for the Office for Soft Architecture (Clear Cut Press, 2003), a selection of texts informed by collaborations with arts communities; The Weather (New Star Books, 2001), an experimental study of the language of meteorology in daily life, history, and politics, which has been published in translation in French and Swedish; Debbie: An Epic (New Star Books, 1997), which was shortlisted for the 1998 Governor General's Award for Poetry in Canada; and XEclogue (New Star Books, 1993), her first book of poetry that launched her study of the historical dynamics of gender in classical poetry forms.

Robertson is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in Letters from Emily Carr University of Art and Design (2017), and a series of arts awards from the Canada Council of the Arts beginning in 1995. She was the Pearl Andelson Sherry Poet-In-Residence at the University of Chicago (2015); the Bain-Swiggett Visiting Professor of Poetry at Princeton University (2014); the Allen Ginsberg Visiting Fellow at Naropa University (2014); and the Judith E. Wilson Visiting Fellow in Poetry at the University of Cambridge (1998).

Since 2004, Robertson has lived in rural France. She frequently travels to art colleges and universities across Europe, the United States, and Canada as a freelance teacher and lecturer, translates poetry and linguistics from French to English, and writes essays for gallery and museum publications while continuing her independent work in poetry.

Artist Statement

When it comes to poetry, I'm for the vibration of sweetness. But apart from this astonished plasticity, I usually can't recall what a poem is. I don't feel its task is to solve anything. It seems more suited to the occupation of an open complexity. I move across rather than with the grain of language to better experience the strange, spirited textures, the tender irony of its sudden turns and redoublings, to seek the mouthfeel of somebody else's diction. This curious empathy leads to an emotion of form, but not without awkward pauses and stumbles, a slapstick which all the while suggests a particularity of duration, occasionally melody. I'm trying to listen for that, whatever my situation—reading walking gardening conversing travelling—which means wasting a lot of time. The poet, she does have a task: to waste as much time as possible, while seeking a shapeliness for her squandering. This constitutes a tiny resistance without determining outcomes. At best this double task would touch upon some unsuspected communal pleasure. Then I could contribute to the long comedy of newness.

January 2018