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House of Anansi Press

The Caiplie Caves

Written by Karen Solie

Published April 09, 2019 | ISBN 9781487005924
POETRY / Canadian / General

Cover of The Caiplie Caves

Regular price $19.95 CAD

112 pages | 8.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

About this book

The Caiplie Caves

Karen Solie

Griffin Poetry Prize winner Karen Solie’s new collection, The Caiplie Caves, interrogates violence, power, economies, self-delusion, and belief in poems that orbit the Caves of Caiplie on the coast of Scotland.

In the seventh century, on the coast of Fife, Scotland, an Irish missionary named Ethernan withdrew to a cave in order to decide whether to establish a priory on May Island, directly opposite, in the Firth of Forth, or pursue a hermit’s solitude. His decision would have been informed by the realities of war, religious colonization, and ideas of progress, power, and corruption, and complicated by personal interest, grief, confusion, and a faith (religious and secular) under extreme duress. His choice between life as an “active” or a “contemplative” was one between public and private action. Along with the question of what constitutes action, it remains a choice central to political and private life.

Karen Solie’s fifth book of poetry, The Caiplie Caves, attends to transition in times of crisis. Around passages informed by Ethernan’s story are poems that orbit the geographical location of the caves but that range through the ages, addressing violence, power, work, economies, self-delusion, and belief. Indecision and necessity are inseparable companions. As are the prospect of error and regret.

About the Author

Karen Solie

KAREN SOLIE is the author of four previous collections of poetry. Short Haul Engine won the BC Book Prize Dorothy Livesay Award and was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize. Modern and Normal was shortlisted for the Trillium Poetry Prize. Pigeon won the Pat Lowther Award, the Trillium Poetry Prize, and the Griffin Prize. The Road In Is Not The Same Road Out was shortlisted for the Trillium Book Award. A volume of selected poems, The Living Option, published in the U.K., is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. An associate director for the Banff Centre's Writing Studio program, she edits and teaches and has served as writer-in-residence for universities across Canada and in Scotland. She lives in Toronto.

Awards and Praise


A CBC Book of the Year

Finalist, T. S. Eliot Prize

Finalist, Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry

“The intensity of language is extraordinarily sustained . . . Solie’s powers of description have never been so acute, her senses so greedy: seeing, as usual, entropy and prolificacy in a race against each other . . . Like Ethernan, Solie would deny that she works miracles. I beg to differ.” — Ange Mlinko, Special to the New York Review of Books

“Solie takes her place among our best contemporary poets . . . The Caiplie Caves is Solie’s best work yet, full of true, beautiful, menacing things.” — Harvard Review

“A significant achievement . . . The Caiplie Caves is a work of impressive layering and depth, full of call-backs, interweaving, careful research, and textual references.” — Globe and Mail

“Wry, sharp-eyed, and uncompromising, The Caiplie Caves is the most ambitious collection yet from an essential poet.” — Telegraph


Finalist, Trillium Book Award

“She might be the most technically sound sentence engineer in the country, prose authors included.” — National Post

“Solie at her best.” — Globe and Mail

“Unease is arguably the dominant mood of our cultural moment — and Karen Solie taps into it brilliantly in her fourth collection, The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out, a follow-up to her Griffin Poetry Prize–winning Pigeon.” Toronto Star

“Remarkable . . . There are glimmers of hope in these poems.” — Quill & Quire


An Independent Book of the Year

A U.K. Poetry Book Society Recommendation

“There is hardly a poem in The Living Option that I wouldn’t cite with alacrity and delight.” — Michael Hofmann, London Review of Books

“The Canadian Karen Solie’s The Living Option: Selected Poems has enormous wit and invention, making waste and horror seem almost redeemable.” — Sean O’Brien, Independent


Winner, Griffin Poetry Prize

Winner, Pat Lowther Memorial Award

Winner, Trillium Book Award

A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of the Year

“Solie has found a technique that others could only envy.” — National Post

Pigeon . . . shows why [Solie] has become one of the most admired Canadian poets of her generation.” — Globe and Mail

“Powerful, philosophical, intelligent . . . [Solie is] especially adept at pulling great wisdom from the ordinary . . . an ability to see at once into and through our daily struggle, often thwarted by our very selves, toward something like an honourable life.” — Anne Carson, Kathleen Jamie, and Carl Phillips, Griffin Poetry Prize Judges’ Citation

“As much as Pigeon sings with metaphor and language-love, it is also infused with a subtle formality that feels like listening to the echoing footsteps of someone walking by deep in thought . . . In wilderness, perhaps self-discovery, but also distance and solitude exist. Solie provides all three.” — Globe and Mail

“Lyrical but gritty, intellectual but tough-talking, colloquial yet elegant . . . as she delves deeper into the social and geological bedrock of our civilization. This is [Solie’s] strongest book yet.” — Quill & Quire

“Karen Solie has established herself as one of Canada’s best lyric poets . . . Pigeon deals out fearlessness, humour, and raw experience, one killing line after another . . . Among the arts, poetry has the most human of values, and among poets, few are as deeply human as Solie. Her poems respond to the many ways a day can come to us, while seeming to discover and name new constants of the heart.” — Michael Helm, NUVO


“Solie’s poetry shows greater control, skill, and aplomb than the work of many, if not most, of Canada’s ‘establishment’ poets . . . Modern and Normal is the work of a seasoned, established poet at the top of her game, but in the disguise of a humble second book.” — Globe and Mail

“A truly excellent book . . . Solie evokes contemporary malaise with both humour and pathos . . . her lines stick to the brainpan long after they’ve been read.” — Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

“One of the best books to appear in this country in the last five years. Her voice is wild and loving all at once, her poems managing to mix a loose-jointed, kind of jaundiced view of things . . . but at the same time, they are lit by a language so fresh that you long to hear it in private.” — Michael Redhill, NUVO

“The lyrical talent of this book is anything but normal.” — Canadian Literature

“Solie’s best metaphors produce an intellectual and emotional pang that can only be described as thrilling.” — Books in Canada

“Solie’s greatest strength is in her observations that stitch together our disparity, divergence, and alienation — the teetering part of being human — that characterizes her poetry.” — Prairie Fire

“There is energy and forward momentum — modern, yes, but hardly ‘normal.’” — Geist

“Lots of poetic grit in this substantial second collection . . . [Solie] is a poet who writes with a wry, no-nonsense intelligence.” — Stride Magazine

“Solie’s eye is that of the observer, not the inward-turned eye we so often experience in poems. The language is precise.” — Vancouver Sun


“Solie’s voice is polished and original . . . An enviable, accomplished collection.” — Globe and Mail

“[Short Haul Engine] burns with the intensity of an engine, firing with white-hot visions of places and spaces we pass en route to the next destination. Solie’s short, clean lines and simple forms drive toward a sense of vast, stark loneliness and restlessness that is, at the same time, beautiful.” — Quill & Quire

Short Haul Engine is a first book of poetry in the very best sense, brimming with talent and richly open-ended. Karen Solie is obviously on her way to becoming a major poet.” — Arc

“Many breathtaking poems see her moving across the country, down highways, in cars, in motels: Solie’s voice is always searching, always transitory, speaking in the emptiness of a space.” — Canadian Literature

“[Solie’s] words evoke experience, feelings, literary echoes, and gusts of meaning and light . . . Short Haul Engine asks to be picked up again . . . its metaphors are iridescent moments of life.” — Books in Canada

“Each phrase is thick with meaning and strength, and muscular, ponderous layers.” — Danforth Review