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Praise for Taking the Names Down From the Hill

"Paul has his own ‘magical fluency’ with plain materials, and he also draws on wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation . . . an assured debut.”
—Barbara Carey, Toronto Star

“Paul, whose late father helped found the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in the 1960s, writes of how death has affected Native culture generally and him and his family in particular. In the title poem he writes ‘It pleases me to be angry,/ to be angry and to speak it and write it.’ But anger is scarcely the only source for this impressive debut collection, or even the most obvious. Paul, who lives in Brentwood Bay, naturally draws deeply from Native oral literature, as when, by some wonderful reductive process, he works within short lines, almost as though he were incising the words on the page.”
—George Fetherling, Vancouver Sun

“a small volume full of insights. The Brentwood Bay poet writes of ‘a pine tree, its hands raised. . .’ He finds the romance in a ride on a city bus: ‘Can you hear/ the song of the gears? The sigh/ of the doors opening?’”
—Liz Pogue, Victoria Times-Colonist

“Paul shows that his vision of the world is unusual and exciting. The subject matter is compelling, but despite Paul’s tight focus on place and community, one of his best poems moves outside this scope: “A Summer Snowfall,” about the plague of aphids in Toronto, shows the poet and his wittiest and most playful.”
—Nicholas Bradley, Eye Weekly

"Every decade or so, a new voice arrives on the Canadian literary landscape that changes what went before it and what will come after. So it is with the spoken and written languages of Kevin Paul. His poems are textured with the history of his people and the losses within his own family. In every poem he makes use of an "old unapologetic magic" that creates a new tradition he dances into being. The place his words take us to is "in the blood’s memory, the mind’s astonishment." What better place to be! There’s a wisdom in these pages, quiet and near to the bone, that I’ve been waiting to hear."
—Lorna Crozier

"It is hard to believe that this is Kevin Paul’s first collection of poetry. There is integrity apparent in his work, a creative patience that signals, already, an unusual talent. These are the poems of a writer who knows that he belongs to the territory on which he resides (not the other way around), knows that he is a member of a people who hold and sustain a particular worldview and language and knows that his ancestral legacy, larger than himself, clarifies his vision and grounds his creative gift."
—Marilyn Dumont

"I can still recall Philip Kevin Paul’s poems from their publication in Breathing Fire back in 1996, even though my copy mysteriously disappeared that same year when my boyfriend sold his truck. This is a debut collection by a First Nations poet particularly adept in his exploration of a mother-son relationship. Simple, prosaic poems with their own voice, unafraid of the small messages they carry. Consider "Deer Medicine": ‘When you got on the train you went away/ from the people who brought you there/ and you noticed for the first time the drift/ of bodies in the vast day. And you could feel/ the stranger in front of you and the one behind/ you and beside you becoming frightened,/ and what a strange fear leaving is.’"
—Emily Schultz, Broken Pencil

"As much a territory as it is a book. To read this superb collection is to enter a complex ecosystem of imagination and memory made up of people, animals, rivers, trees, and stories. Although this collection is only Paul’s first full-length book, he has already developed a mature vision and a graceful, finely-honed writing style. There are really no weaknesses in this book—Paul portrays people, places and nature equally well, brings humour and grief to bear in different contexts, and shows remarkable depth in his understanding and expression of complex ideas and situations... While many of Paul’s poems eulogize his parents, they also explore the spiritual and geographical depths of Paul’s WSANEC (Saanich) culture and territory... These poems explore on a deeper level what it is to be Saanich, and reveal how Paul’s deepest understanding of himself as a Saanich person is intertwined with his language and the one who taught him his mother tongue..."
—Jennifer Dales, Arc

"Philip Kevin Paul’s first collection, Taking the Names Down from the Hill, is full of engaging twists of phrase and thick, hefty descriptions around his particular interpretations of First Nation traditions. He’s both playful with and respectful of the symbols, gently reminding the reader that wisdom is shared and passed on in delightful ways. ... Paul’s identification of symbols in ways that both define and surpass the cultural myths is refreshing at a time when the trend in cultural discussions is to try to own them outright. This approach is ... simultaneously insightful and inclusive."
—Bob Wakulich, subTerrain


"The subjects of the poems in this highly accomplished first book by Philip Kevin Paul, a First Nations writer from Saanich, B.C., are often people now lost to the writer (father, mother, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends) but held in memory as part of a living tradition. They are meditational narratives, full of moments seen clearly and distinctly. Paul has a keen eye for the telling detail, as the few shorter poems — which are almost imagist — demonstrate; but such details fill out all the stories he tells...

"To read through Taking the Names Down from the Hill is to encounter a family, a tribe, a continuing life of the people even as the land disappears: “What I imagined was my only home / lost forever under tons of concrete / and vulgar electric houses humming. The sickness into us.” But none of it is quite so lost, and the poems themselves tell us why this is so: “[S]orrow has had its time. / The mourning must break / at last. I will tell you / what they really left us. / They left us / magic, in everything.” Narrative meditations of real power, these poems offer their readers such magic. "
—Douglas Barbour, Canadian Book Review Annual