Marita Dachsel on Poetry by Canadian Women

Book Cover Glossolalia

Marita Dachsel's Glossolalia was released this week. Glossolalia is an unflinching exploration of sisterhood, motherhood, and sexuality as told in a series of poetic monologues spoken by the thirty-four polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In Marita Dachsel's second full-length collection, the self-avowed agnostic feminist uses mid-nineteenth century Mormon America as a microcosm for the universal emotions of love, jealousy, loneliness, pride, despair, and passion. Glossolalia is an extraordinary, often funny, and deeply human examination of what it means to be a wife and a woman through the lens of religion and history.

To mark International Women's Day (March 8), Dachsel shares with us a list of her favourite poetry by Canadian women writers.

Most of my favourite poetry books are written by Canadian women. Narrowing the list down to a reasonable number was difficult as we’re a lucky country to have such a wealth of talent. Ultimately, I chose eight collections that I keep returning to for inspiration, for pleasure, for comfort, for a challenge.

Book Cover The Invsibility Exhibit

The Invisibility Exhibit by Sachiko Murakami: A stunning, complex book that explores the cracks as big as crevasses in Vancouver’s glossy veneer. An exploration of the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver’s missing women, a city’s apathy, and personal accountability, Murakami’s poems stare back, their gaze unrelenting, daring the reader to make excuses as witness. 

Book Cover Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists

Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists by a. rawlings: Sensual and playful, the remarkable Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists is sound poetry, concrete poetry, nature poetry, and love poetry. It’s all those and yet so much more. I keep returning to this to be reminded of the beauty of the page, the vitality of sound, and that poetry can be more than words, it can be art.

Ashland by Gil Adamson: One does not read this book, but inhabit it. I feel the grit in my teeth, the dust on my skin when I enter Adamson’s gothic world. It is visceral and violent, her language blade-sharp and fierce. A terrifying joy to explore.

God of Missed Connections by Elizabeth Bachinsky: A dialogue between Ukraine’s difficult history, contemporary Canada, and the poet’s search for connection to place and people, it is smart, sexy, and wry. All at once, these poems are  political, dramatic, intimate, and funny, and Bachinsky’s keen ear for voice transcends the page.

Inventory by Dionne Brand: In Brand’s long-poem lamentation, the reader is forced to bear witness to the unrelenting tragedies of our time. Haunting, uncomfortable and deliberate, the language is incredibly beautiful and lush, almost hypnotising in sound and rhythm. This is poetry that grabs you by the shoulders and shakes you awake, forcing the reader to observe and acknowledge our frantic, horrifying world.

The Love Song of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Sharon McCartney: Both subversive and charming, a fresh investigation of the beloved landscape of the Little House on the Prairie series and the Ingalls’ family. Objects (Ma’s green dress, Pa’s rifle), characters (Nellie Olesen, Pa’s penis), and weather (a Chinook, a cloud) are given voice to reveal their deepest desires, secrets or shames. Sometimes comic sometimes heartbreaking, and often both, this collection has changed how I think of Laura, her life, and my own memories.

Book Cover What It Feels Like For a Girl

What it Feels Like for a Girl by Jennica Harper: A book-length poem that explores the complex and intense friendship between two young teenage girls, revolving around Madonna, pornography, intimacy, and sexual exploration. It is an honest portrayal of a relationship that many women have had, either physically or emotionally, but rarely explored through art that isn’t for heterosexual men’s titillation. Harper deftly navigates the light through the dark and has created a book all teenagers, and all parents of teenagers, should read.

Pigeon by Karen Solie: Solie captures the uneasy spaces between the urban and the rural, between nature and machine, and the uncertainty they evoke. She has a sly eye for details and in both her long prose poem “Archive” and the lyric poem “Migration”, she explores fear, loss, and the navigation of space. It is not fashionable to find comfort in poetry, but I have turned to both of these for comfort more than once when faced with news of death and illness.

March 4, 2013
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