A review of Continent by Aaron Boothby

Published on March 16, 2023

In Aaron Boothby’s Continent, documented history and intergenerational storytelling form a subjective mythology that ties people to a land over time, witnessing its evolution and their own. Though many lay legal claims to the land in these poems, some, namely Indigenous peoples, recognize their place within its ecosystem over generations, and yet others are unsure of where they fit along the embroiled timeline: the past constantly plays out in the present. Even among the continent’s incredible natural beauty that implores presence and appreciation, how to live simply as part of a constantly unfolding history of colonial violence and “bleached mythology”? 


I looked around      belonging 

………………….for us is history excised of shattered bones 

………….Law is logic     is myth 

…………………….we say a destiny which manifests and this 

……..not singular to nation      a call


Aaron Boothby Continent

Aaron Boothby

McClelland & Stewart

Reckoning with whether it’s possible to reconcile calling a place on stolen land home (even in the exceptional case of refugees fleeing from past homelands), Montreal-based Boothby turns the geographic notion of continent into another sense of place, not wholly removed from the nationalism of country and politics and borders, but big enough to engulf such social discriminations, bigger than any people, an indifferent yet imposing and beautiful landmass. 


I believe it is this simple      we 

……………wanted to find the country of the others 

…… us      this continent 

…………….was a story we’d been told so we came 

we were different but it was easy 


With meagre legitimacy accepted 

……….dispersal into dreams upheld by violation


Boothby’s ardent investigation of these questions is a map in itself, spread across continents, striving not for accuracy or to be the final word, but for a way to exist. He maps a difficult quest for how to be somewhere – and more than that, survive somewhere – that is in constant battle, unjustly for some more than others. Yet beauty also constantly emerges, moments to breathe and, as if an increasingly utopian concept, simply be.mRb

Robyn Fadden is a writer and editor based in Montreal. Formerly Arts Editor at weekly Hour, Robyn is Managing Editor of Delve at McGill University and a contributor to and CKUT 90.3FM, where she continues to extol the city and its creative forces.



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