Chenille or Silk is a startling first collection of confessional poetry examining the slippery relations of desire, class, embodiment and trauma. Emma McKenna’s writing traverses the bounds and the wounds of a family marked by poverty and intergenerational trauma. The collection asserts the primacy of intimacy and sexuality to subjectivity, as the poems move through the struggle to find identity, love and belonging in an urban queer community’s ever-shifting economy of desire. Striking, brave and at times uncomfortable, Chenille or Silk captures the ambivalence—and the hope—of possibility.
Growing up during the 50s and 60s in small town Alberta, Pam was keenly aware, by the age of nine, that she was a lesbian. And she also knew well to hide this about herself. Pam would search for books on ‘The Island of Lesbos’, only to return from the library with a copy of Little Women. In between the vast spaces of dust and dugouts, she grows up and grows old, playing her saxophone in deep, blaring notes. Age is a constant marker throughout these poems for an otherwise long and lonely time of waiting for queer rights, for acceptance, for love. Poet Tina Biello unearths just about everything from beneath the Alberta ground: dinosaur bones, a family’s firstborn, missing cows. A voice from within the Prairies, Playing into Silence is a look back at a dry time in lesbian identity.
In All Violet, a young woman chronicles the experience of living on the margins, in spaces and places where body and mind are flayed by guilt, disappointments and betrayals. Her poems record the shattering trauma of struggling to survive through periods of doubt, fear, rage and pain, creating a narrative of disconnection, indignation, alienation and emptiness, the extremes of suffering and desperation.
Employing lyrical free verse, Rani Rivera has skillfully employed the short line to pinpoint moments of acute perception.
Unadorned, taut and precise cries of pain, loss and fury draw the reader deeper and deeper inside this in-your-face confrontation with a dark world of foreboding alleviated by flashes of mordant wit and grace under fire.
Jane Byers’ Acquired Community is both a collection of narrative poems about seminal moments in North American lesbian and gay history, mostly post-World War II, and a series of first person poems that act as a touchstone to compare the narrator’s coming out experience within the larger context of the gay liberation movement.
The “parade” poems such as “Celebration Was a Side Effect, 1992” explores the important role parades have played in the queer movement and how they have transformed from activism to celebration. “St Patrick’s Day Parade, 2014” takes the Boston St. Patrick’s Day committee’s homophobia to task, reminding us that this is not ancient history, but an ever-transforming experience. In her long poem, “Keen,” Byers imagines a dialogue between a young queer university student and Michael Lynch, an AIDS activist, poet and scholar who helped found many gay community institutions. In this compelling poem we are reminded that the AIDS epidemic had a rippling effect, touching the lives of everyone within the gay community and well beyond.
In this second book by Byers her poems go beyond the historical perspective of LGBT rights and are living examples of progress. Acquired Community examines and celebrates community resilience.
— Winner of the 2017 Goldie Award for Poetry
He Leaves His Face in the Funeral Car is elegiac, lyrical, ironic; a series of reflections, recollections; a collection about relationships—to family, clocks, water, trees, ungulates, endings—recognizing that not all relationships are straightforward: a mother’s secret false teeth, a teakettle riddled with bullet holes, pears and small knives. To leave a face in the funeral car is to fall out of time, to fall into history, to ponder the meanings of dust, the quiet records of suicide. This is poetry that covers a broad range, wide and changing, the strangeness of everyday life buoyed by the solace of language, the pleasure of song. Each word in its right place, each poem reflecting beyond surface meaning.
In the canon of contemporary feminist and lesbian poetry, For Your Own Good breaks silence. A fictionalized autobiography, the poems in this collection illustrate the narrator’s survival of a domestic and sexual violence in a lesbian relationship. There is magic in this work: the symbolism of the Tarot and the roots of Jewish heritage, but also the magic that is at the heart of transformation and survival.
These poems are acutely painful, rooted in singular and firsthand experiences. But Horlick also draws from a legacy of feminist, Jewish and lesbian writers against violence: epigraphs from the works of Adrienne Rich and Minnie Bruce Pratt act as touchstones alongside references to contemporary writers, such as Daphne Gottlieb and Michelle Tea.
In this reflection on grief, silence and community, we follow the narrator’s own journey as she explores what it is to survive, to change, to desire and to hope. At once unflinching and fragile, For Your Own Good is a collection with transformation at its heart.
Art, children, marriage, breaking, rejoicing. Love is a many-branched tree and in Hamilton’s newest poetry collection, her third, it’s autumn or winter, the winds are kicking up and branches are flying everywhere—bursting into a thousand shapes. Or maybe it’s Hamilton’s heart that explodes into many dimensions. Tender, furious, grief-stricken, witty, urbane, elegiac, political, personal, erotic—these poems are all those things. Hamilton can’t stop loving big no matter how chancy it is.
All these shapes lend raw material for a poem: Mothers lose their babies. A boy loses his leg to war. A girl hides from serial killer Richard Speck. A virgin gets pregnant. A partner mourns a death at Walkerton. Women tumble into love, celebratory and foolhardy.
Frank and elemental, Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes reminds us that life is worth everything we can throw at it.
Why do some of us learn to bend? Others break? How do we move from shame to being “enough”? How do we bounce back stronger after adversity and then embrace our own humanity with its flawed beauty?
In her first full collection of poetry, Jane Byers explores her personal experience with resilience, beginning with her own difficult birth, which she describes as inoculation against despair. As a young adult, the writer moves from complicity and its illusion of power to building a pliant self. Byers turns an unflinching eye to parenthood, as the mother of adopted twins, and examines the workplace through the eyes of a female safety specialist working alongside firefighters, transportation crews and heavy equipment purchasers. The author draws on the steeling effects of being queer to imbue her children and injured workers with suppleness.
A late fall swim in an alpine lake; a woman in the twilight of life, risking delight. Red thermometers of grass shed their glistening mercury in a fever of gratitude; to tumble from the divine is to be alive in the pungent beauty that the so-called mundane has to offer.
Steeling Effects asks whether what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and “lives” its way into the pliant beauty that gratitude affords.