These poems span fifteen years of life in the northern industrial output of Prince George, BC. They portray family, friendship, sex, death, health, work, love and human hope as subjects of a harsh social, economic, and bureaucratic system that is itself trapped in its own contradictions and ironies. The Centre is McKinnon's first full-length book since Pulp Log, which won the BC Book Prize for poetry in 1991.
"Not much happens in the eleven pieces collected in The Centre. Their author, Barry McKinnon, sometimes drinks beer in seedy stripper bars or coffee at Tim Horton’s, shops at Sears, drives his truck somewhere, cuts wood, paints his house, marks essays. The real action takes place inside his head, for the pieces collected here are all sequences and serial poems recording the play of their author’s consciousness, a brooding, often emotionally evocative play that makes pleasingly heavy weather of the clouded mind as it registers social and natural as well as psychological phenomena. At his best, which happens frequently if also irregularly throughout The Centre, McKinnon makes his particulars pay their way; they are not there for the free ride of local colour."