Dead Salmon Dialectics

By Derrick Stacey Denholm

Categories: Poetry
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781927575581, August 2014


Drawing on scientific studies of salmon recycling in perhumid rainforests, Dead Salmon Dialectics follows the dark and often humorous trial of a young biologist at work in the wildest estuaries of the rainiest place on earth. Written for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the historic Lyell Island logging blockades on Xaaydaa Gwaay, these poems form a musicolous bricolage out of a mesothermal wordstream, sampling ideas of unequal value toward a cohesion of ecological and ecoliterary integrity. Filled with thousands of rotting carcasses, rain, swirls of phosphorescent algae, rain, night-fishing bears, local sledneck debutantes, the marvel of raven song, rain and near misses by giant falling trees, Dead Salmon Dialectics is an interdisciplinary experiment for the senses and the synapses. While they challenge passive readers to activate and participate, the poems set the visceral beauty of coastal rainforest music to the unavoidable slippery realities of hard science, technology and philosophy.


  • Winner, Barry McKinnon Chapbook Award 2010


"His name is Derrick and naming is what Dead Salmon Dialectics does. Denholm takes a serious run at locating a 'lan(d)guage' that negotiates the particulars of place by naming. Thus these 'phloems' reach for a language that might help materialize a place-derived commons; minute, truthful, and particular. This poetry is a salvage operation that knifes in an ecologic lexicon, a dendrite map of a poetrophic system of attention. Hard work, but incisive and worth it–a dialect of place we need to remember."

–Fred Wah

“In the streaming pages of his Dead Salmon Dialectics, Derrick Denholm’s dramatic variations open into an entirely new kind of correlative clause, to a ‘core sampling’ of the living, breathing, north coast tangle of fish and names, mixed equally with the ongoing currents of rainforest and poetic fluvials he so adroitly weaves together. In page after page, Denholm writes of the ‘wings, limbs and mouths’ that pulse in these amazing ‘disintegrating remains,’ not just of salmon, but the all, bringing together the movement of consumption, the ‘long here’ of his ‘adult rain salmon rewrite,’ in this, his ‘running streamcourse’ of what goes on, and on.”

–Ken Belford