Shortlisted for the 2013 Gerald Lampert Award
The lease is meaningless: a square paced
first by seismic workers, and then your father,
and then by every other man you know.
Distilled from his time in the Saskatchewan and Albertan oilfields, Mathew Henderson’s The Lease plumbs the prairie depths to find human technology and physical labour realigning our landscape. With acute discipline, Henderson illuminates the stubborn and often unflattering realities of industrial culture and its cast of hard-living men.
Praise for The Lease:
‘The Lease cuts into its primary subjects — grease, technology, physical labor, alienated sex, mud, fear, profound loneliness — like a welder’s oxyacetylene flame. [...] I've read more adept books of poetry than The Lease in the past six months, with more self-conscious chaos and precision wordplay. But I've read none that I was more eager to run through again in my mind.’
– Dwight Garner, The New York Times
‘A sneakily brilliant, beautiful work … Writing that's meant to be read, like light through ice, hard and clear and true. Try not to shield your eyes.’ – The Millions
‘The tactile beauty of Mathew Henderson’s poems feels physically earned, carried across hard distances. We want to stay close to this voice we half-know and these lines, never burdened but speech-weighted, so carefully set down. The poems extend with great honesty a tradition of writing about the kind of working life that might kill you now or in time. What’s drawn here are the unequal wages of hand and heart.’
– Michael Helm, author of Cities of Refuge
‘The scale of Henderson’s almost hallucinatory rendering of work in Saskatchewan’s oilfields is as small as the moths that circle the flares and as cosmic as the industry’s effects. The Lease crackles with perfectly pitched alarm at what human dominion does to our humanity.’
– Linda Besner, author of The Id Kid