Known as a bird poet par excellence, Don McKay’s ornithological fascination has received more scholarly attention to date than his poetry and criticism on geological themes. One consequence of this critical orientation is that a significant development in McKay’s ongoing critique of Romanticism has not yet been discussed in depth—namely, the shifting terms of his engagement with aesthetics of the sublime. Looking primarily at McKay’s most recent essay collection, The Shell of the Tortoise (2011), as well as select poems from Strike/Slip (2006), this essay explores how McKay’s geopoetic engagements with aesthetics of the sublime extend his idiosyncratic definitions of “wilderness” and “poetic attention.” Moreover, it argues that sustained attention to treatments of sublimity in McKay’s work will result in a more textured understanding of his phenomenological poetics.
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