Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity

Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity

Gary Barwin
  • $22.00

NOVEMBER 21, 2023
192 pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-79-4

Award-winning author Gary Barwin has written poems, novels and books for children. He’s composed music, created multimedia art and performed around the world. Now he has turned his talented pen to essays. In Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity Barwin thinks deeply about big ideas: story and identity; art and death; how we communicate and why we dream. From his childhood home in Ireland to his long-time home in Hamilton, Barwin shares the thoughts that keep him up at night (literally) and the ideas that keep him creating. Filled with witty asides, wise stories and a generosity of spirit that is unmistakable, these are essays that readers will turn to again and again.

Advance Praise

“Reading Gary Barwin is like zipping from one awe-inspiring corner of the galaxy to the next and being privy to the intricate, inner connections of everything you see along the way. From life with beloved dogs through to ampersands, first kisses and the invisible, entangled bonds of diaspora, this book plays witness to the interconnected moments of our lives in all of their splendour and surprise. Barwin is a master at detailing the invisible – and sometimes unexpected – threads that illuminate and bind a life together, and reading this book will make you come away from it that much more appreciative of the threads that illuminate your own.” – Amanda Leduc, author of The Centaur’s Wife and Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space 

“It makes sense that a Canadian writer born in Northern Ireland to South African Jewish parents of Lithuanian descent might ask ‘Where is home?’ and might write from and towards this question. But one soon discovers in Gary Barwin’s Imagining Imagining that he not only finds his home in language but invites us into it with warmth, humour and a roving curiosity, sharing his own journeys in relation to words, to writing, to publishing. There is a Yiddish saying – ‘the tongue is not in exile’ – and Imagining Imagining, a generous work of home seeking and home building, invites us to speak the world into being together.” – David Naimon, Between the Covers podcast


Books: Angsty millennials, an island paradise and a stand-up sage (Aviva Lowy, The Jewish Independent, 04/07/2024)
"His musings are poetic, insightful, quirky and humorous.[...] Barwin is a mix of philosopher and stand-up comedian."

Books and Belonging: M. G. Vassanji and Gary Barwin reflect (Mark Fried, Literary Review of Canada, July/August 2024)
"Ever conversational, he doesn’t mind wandering off on tangents or abandoning a line of thought in favour of a humorous throwaway. And he never takes himself too seriously."

Gary Barwin's Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity (Maria Meindl, The /tƐmz/ Review, Spring 2024)
"If some writing is visceral, Imagining Imagining is vestibular, offering the kind of nervous system rush that happens in a funhouse. The riffs and puns and chains of associations are just disorienting enough to refresh the senses. This is writing as a means of discovery, a way of experiencing the world, and language never seeks to be a transparent lens. It’s the object of curiosity and playfulness, and delight. "

The Minerva Reader Spring Review! (Lisa de Nikolits, The Minerva Reader, 09/04/2024)
"Delightful, funny, reflective, poignant and, might I say, feel-good, although that feel-good sounds downright pedestrian and Barwin is the antithesis of that." 

Imagining Imagining by Gary Barwin (Susan Wismer, The Miramichi Reader, 23/03/2024)
"Small book of wonder tales … This collection embodies the generosity and intimacy of the essay form at its best."

Gary Barwin, IMAGINING IMAGINING: Essays on Language, Identity & Infinity (rob mclennan, rob mclennan's blog, 16/03/2024)
"This is a remarkable work, and one remarkably layered, complex and polyphonic, composed with such an ease through the language, even within surreal bends, quirky leaps and outright left-field asides."

Imagining Imagining: Essays on Writing, Identity and Infinity (Steven Mayoff,, 30/10/2023)
"Familiar and astonishing. I kept ricocheting between those two adjectives as I read Gary Barwin’s collection Imagining Imagining: Essays on Language, Identity and Infinity. The repetition in the title and the sleight-of-hand shift from verb to noun produced by this echoing is a good indication of the profound linguistic playfulness readers can expect from these essays."


The (CanL)It Crowd: Gary Barwin (Hollay Ghadery,, 08/02/2024)
“It means something to win, but it doesn’t mean anything not to win.”

Writer’s Block: Gary Barwin (All Lit Up, 23/01/2024)
Gary shares why perfection is overrated and why qualities in a good writer might not be the same as the ones in a good surgeon (and vice versa).

The Next Chapter (CBC Listen, 13/01/2024)
Ontario poet and author Gary Barwin discusses his new nonfiction.

Neighbourhood Book Club – Gary Barwin – Angela (Angela, 105.5 Hits FM, 03/01/2024)
Gary and Angela talk about Imagining Imagining.

E371 with GARY BARWIN (Jamie Tennant, Get Lit, 28/12/2023)
Gary joins Jamie Tennant for the last Get Lit of 2023.

POWER Q & A WITH GARY BARWIN (River Street Writing, 29/11/2023)
"I was tricked, I tell you. I was tricked!"


Mended Maps: Language, Identity, and Home-Making (Ariel Gordon, 49th Shelf, 17/06/2024)
Gary's book makes this list of recommended reads.

"A Paradigm Shift That Has Become Entirely Normalized" Read an Excerpt from Gary Barwin's Essay Collection, Imagining Imagining (Open Book, 03/01/2024)
Gary shares an excerpt with Open Book.

Face Out: Our Favourite Book Covers of 2023 (Hamilton Review of Books, 20/12/2023)
Gary's book is included in this roundup of HRB's favourite book covers of 2023.

Cozy Fest: Gary Barwin + Imagining Imagining (All Lit Up, 14/12/2023)
Gary reads from Imagining Imagining for CozyFest.

HAMILTON READS FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Jessica Rose, Hamilton City Magazine, 7/12/2023)
Gary's book is included in this great roundup!

Angela's Book Club: The Best of 2023 (Angela's Book Club, 6/12/2023)
Hollay Ghadery chooses Gary's book as one of the best of 2023 on Angela's Book Club.

Elegy for a Poodle: How the death of a family pet inspires a must-read essay on life, connection and beauty (Gary Barwin, Toronto Star, 3/12/2023)
Gary shares an excerpt from his collection of essays Imagining Imagining.

Six Books on Six Trails (Gary Barwin, 49th Shelf, 27/11/2023)
Gary curates a list of recommended reading.

Read Hamilton (Open Book, 27/11/2023)
A wonderful gathering of Hamilton books in one place, including Gary's essays.

Gary Barwin | Issue 30 (Kathryn Mockler, Send My Love to Anyone, 02/10/2023)
Kathryn Mockler's great newsletter features one of Gary's essays from Imagining Imagining.

What We're Reading: Staff Writers' Picks, Fall 2023 (Hamilton Review of Books, 05/09/2023)
It's great to see Gary's book on this list from the Hamilton Review of Books.

Our books editor on the 30 (plus!) new reads we can’t wait to cosy up with this fall (Toronto Star, 02/09/2023)
Gary's book makes another great list.

46 works of Canadian nonfiction to read in fall 2023 (CBC Books, 24/08/2023)
It's wonderful to see Gary's essay collection Imagining Imagining on this list.


Click here to read an excerpt of Imagining Imagining.

About the Author

Gary Barwin is a writer, composer and multidisciplinary artist and the author of twenty-six books including Nothing the Same, Everything Haunted: The Ballad of Motl the Cowboy, which won the Canadian Jewish Literary Award. His national bestselling novel Yiddish for Pirates won the Leacock Medal for Humour and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was long-listed for Canada Reads.

Barwin has been writer-in-residence at University of Toronto (Scarborough), Laurier, Western University, McMaster University and the Hamilton Public Library, Hillfield Strathallan College, Sheridan College and Young Voices E-Writer-in-Residence at the Toronto Public Library. He has taught creative writing at a number of colleges and universities, to at-risk youth in Hamilton through the ArtForms program and currently mentors through the Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. His writing has been published in hundreds of magazines and journals internationally and his writing, music, media works and visuals have been presented and broadcast internationally. Though born in Northern Ireland to South African parents of Ashkenazi descent, Barwin lives in Hamilton, Ontario, and at

Other Titles by This Author

For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems (2019)

No TV for Woodpeckers (2017)

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