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House of Anansi Press


Written by Mathew Henderson

Published April 07, 2020 | ISBN 9781487007812
POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Family

Cover of Roguelike

Regular price $19.95 CAD

96 pages | 8.5 in × 5.5 in
Print Format

Also Available as an Ebook

About this book


Mathew Henderson

Mathew Henderson explores with remarkable insight the unique logics of video games and addiction in his much-anticipated sophomore poetry collection.

Mathew Henderson’s Roguelike, the much-anticipated follow-up to his acclaimed 2012 debut The Lease, melds the unique online vocabulary, culture, and logic of video games with family and addiction narratives, specifically the poet’s relationship with his mother and her struggle with narcotics. The resulting poems are arresting and fresh, mining game mythology, fantasy, and family history, while exploring the rich connection between video gaming and notions of addiction, repetition, storytelling, and escapism.

Though the poems are largely narrative, ultimately Roguelike is less about stories themselves than it is about the psychological and emotional forces that define how and why we make them — how we’re all moved to shape the disparate and seemingly unconnected events of our lives into something meaningful, to make sense of the past and the present through storytelling.

About the Author

Mathew Henderson

MATHEW HENDERSON grew up in Tracadie, Prince Edward Island. After he graduated high school, Henderson worked summers in the oil fields of Saskatchewan and Alberta. His experiences there provided inspiration for his first book of poetry, The Lease, which was a finalist for both the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Henderson earned an M.F.A. from the University of Guelph and has had poems published in The Walrus, Brick, Maisonneuve, and Best Canadian Poetry.

Awards and Praise


“Striking and evocative … At the heart of this powerful book is a longing to gain perspective and move on from a difficult past.” — Toronto Star

“Henderson has a talent for the strong image, a sharp setup … Throughout the work, games provide a way to cope, a way to center shifting narratives of shelter and escape … This is a collection about loss and mourning, storytelling and mythmaking; about how we cope and how the externalities we use to do so bleed together to form accepted but ultimately shaky notions of the truth.” — Temz Review

“The best poetry combines robust language use and meaning, not one at the expense of the other. Roguelike, the sophomore collection from Toronto poet Mathew Henderson, delivers both … Henderson is a master craftsman who loads his poems with elegant turns of phrase and meaning … Impossible to internalize at one sitting, Roguelike is worthy of multiple readings not just for the story, but for the skill with which the author manipulates energy and storytelling. Roguelike is a hand grenade that never stops exploding.” — Quill & Quire, STARRED REVIEW

“Mathew Henderson’s Roguelike builds an intoxicating mystical world from the psychological pressure of trauma and the lingering effects of obsession — with one’s family story, with the human impulse to be subsumed by narrative and meaning. There is a fierce independence to the poems, yet they warp-tunnel towards an achingly beautiful bedrock of existence.” — Jeff Latosik, award-winning author of Dreampad  


Finalist, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award
Finalist, Trillium Book Award for Poetry

“Mr. Henderson’s verse has a bit of Raymond Carver’s blue-collar despair, and some of the raw-knuckled, come-as-you-are quality of Philip Levine’s poetry about toiling in Detroit’s automobile factories. It also made me recall something the writer Dagoberto Gilb, a former construction worker, once said: ‘My favorite ethnic group is smart.’” — New York Times

“What’s remarkable about Henderson’s book — the reason to take a chance on a twenty-seven-year-old’s first work from a small press — is its demonstration of artistic judgment, what this looks like and why it matters. Writing that’s meant to be read, like light through ice, hard and clear and true. Try not to shield your eyes.” — Millions

“The poems that stand out most for me in Henderson’s collection are the portraits of his co-workers in which the details reveal the conflict between that which is their own and that which is good … Ordinary lives given in precise detail, and in that detail evidence of the conflict between one’s own actions, one’s own culture, and that which we might imagine as being the good.” — The Goose