Riffs (Large Print Edition)

by Dennis Lee


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Riffs is the story of a passionate love affair, told in vintage Lee style – with whoops, deep chords, and headlong improvisational arcs. We hear Bach, Bo Diddley, Bird; the news is heartache and being. Celebratory, catastrophic, the poem tracks ways in which eros and our lives are made mutually accountable.

Riffs is a landmark achievement from the poet of Civil Elegies and The Gods.

Published in 1993, this was Dennis Lee’s first book of adult poetry in 14 years. 


Cool cat, hot Riffs… It’s the jazzy song of a word-lover… It’s a slim, accessible paperback whose jazzy cover is like the opening blast of the syncopated, reckless, apparently impulsive writing within…” – The Globe and Mail 

“Riffs is [Dennis Lee’s] first book of adult poetry in 14 years. It consists of 88 short poems, or ‘riffs,’ that play with language in the same way a jazz master improvises on a melody… Lee’s driving energy and faultless craft make Riffs an unusually easy book of poems to read. And while it sometimes indulges in pure headlong excitement at the expense of deeper emotion, it also swirls into many little eddies of complex, original beauty. Its climax is deeply moving, with its reverberant image of dolphins arcing over a silver sea.” – Maclean’s

“The poems in Riffs are honest, passionate and full of insight. Their masterful rhythms and melodies re-establish Lee as one of this country’s great poets.” – The Montreal Gazette

They are indeed musical, liquid poems that pick you up and carry you through the experience; poems impossible to put down. Lee has a way of making language feel inevitable… Whether the emotional moment swoops or falls, we are taken along for the ride in an entirely convincing, captivating way. And lucky we are to have a new book by one of the finest poets in the English language.” – Quill & Quire 

“This is a grown-up voice, a voice of gritty honesty, of integrity … we are taken along for the ride in an entirely convincing, captivating way.” – Quill & Quire

 “The strength of Lee’s collection is its surprising juxtapositions. He’s an expert in combining slang and more elegant words to create such striking phrases as ‘immaculately wingy’… Riffs is as consistent a performance as many a jazz album or concert. However, its gut-bucket honesty is refreshing and it’s a pleasure to read. It’s also a fine homecoming to adult poetry for Lee, who has been famed for the last 20 years as a children’s book writer.” – The Ottawa Citizen

From the very first lines… Lee resurrects the music of Dylan Thomas, the wordplay of e.e. cummings, the zany delight of his own Alligator Pie.” – Books in Canada

“Poet Dennis Lee adds love-junkie beatnik of distinction to his long list of credentials.” – NOW


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About the Author

Dennis Lee has written more than twenty books of poetry, including Civil Elegies, which won the Governor General’s Literary Award, and Alligator Pie, the children’s classic. His most recent collection of poems is Testament. Brick Books published his poetry collection Riffs in 1992 and is presenting a new edition in 2015 as the Brick Books…

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Additional Info

  • ISBN: 0919626815
  • ISBN-13: 9780919626812
  • Pages: 64
  • Year: 1995
  • Dimensions 8.25 x 11.5 x 0.13 in
  • Category:
  • Cover Art:

    'Freddie's Zig Zag' by Mary Donlan, 1992

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