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The Perfect Archive

The Perfect Archive

By Paul Lisson

The Perfect Archive is the story of an archivist who moves beyond his role to become an author of texts on archival theory. In his work, he processes the flow and retention of government information, and he begins to question the very nature of a "pure and accurate" archive. He is embroiled in a complex story that sends him into hiding, engages him in love, and has him grappling with tyranny, injustice, the suppression of information, and the strength and the futility of resistance, except in the form of poetry.


Guernica Editions (Essential Poets Series)


110 pages |

Regular price $20.00 CAD
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Paul Lisson’s The Perfect Archive is an unusual work in that he uses his professional skills as a librarian and archivist to create a work of mystique that is strange and darkly foreboding.

James M. Fisher

The Perfect Archive is a perfect trip. You have to abandon control — let go of the ordered catalogue of happenings, a structured narrative — and simply enjoy Lisson’s provocative bits: ‘Doubt implies thought. Thought is prone to disorder,’ or ‘It will require putting bullets through books.’Megan Clark

It’s a great little Frankenstein of a book, with lots in it to tear apart, turn upside down, and reconfigure as some new and entirely provocative monster; something less about a mysterious “subject” and more about the creative process itself and the tools involved in that process. Metaphorically (perhaps, even, literally) Paul reconstructs the bones in order to make himself (the work) more interesting. I recommend you dive in and get your hands dirty.                  

Stan Rogal

In The Perfect Archive, Hamilton poet, archivist and librarian Paul Lisson stretches the boundaries of poetry and prose to perform an exacting/extracting critique of the archive. Reminiscent of Kafka, radical and irreverent, the archive at the centre of this dark tale of illusion, deception, and the contingent nature of truth itself, is brimful of contested knowledge and groans under the weight of its own power.

Jody Baltessen, Prairie Fire

Something unique, quirky, and daring

The Nancy Duff Show


Hamilton Literary Award for Poetry (Short-listed)

The Kerry Schooley Book Award (Short-listed)

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About the author

Poet, archivist, and librarian, Paul Lisson was born into a family of union card carrying steelworkers who played in bagpipe bands. Paul has twice been the recipient of the City of Hamilton Arts Award—for visual art and literature in 1997 and for arts administration in 2017. He received the Rand Memorial Prize for accomplishment in print, established by the graduating class of 1898, McMaster University, and the International Merit Award for poetry from The Atlanta Review. He is the Founding Publisher / Editor of Hamilton Arts & Letters. The Ontario Arts Council says that HA&L has the “distinction” of being the first online magazine they have funded.