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Poetry Women Authors

Empires of the Everyday


by (author) Anna Lee-Popham

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2024
Women Authors, General, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2024
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An ambitious and wholly original poetry collection that examines the ways that life is confined and sometimes defined by the city and the ubiquity and invisibility of state violence.

The poems in Empires of the Everyday give voice to the many “you” who move through a city—one that resembles many modern cities—where plywood shelters are demolished in pandemic winters. Where everyday violence is palpable, but the related media reporting is offhand, cool, distanced, piecemeal, uncontextualized.

In an attempt to access a more revelatory language, the poems spar with an AI translator, disturbing the disease of twenty-first century life that the city makes solid and covers up. Slavery, permanent war, and Empire titter in the resulting language, in its bending of what is possible, as only poetry can do. The poems trace the relationship between the human “you” and the machine “I” through five powerful, nuanced, and thought-provoking episodes. Anna Lee-Popham’s impressive debut collection is immersed in the current ruptures of the world, rendering a translation of Empire and beyond-Empire to a possible convergence for “you” and “I.”

About the author

Contributor Notes

Anna Lee-Popham is a writer and editor whose poetry and non-fiction has been published in Arc Poetry Magazine, Brick, Canthius, Riddle Fence, Autostraddle, Lingue e Linguaggi, and others. Anna holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph and lives in Toronto.

Excerpt: Empires of the Everyday: Poems (by (author) Anna Lee-Popham)

To the City in Translation

At twelve, you awake each morning evaporating
your public faith limits you, your ears inessential
to the symphony, your uncertainty crawls the cold
avenues of your clavicle, you siphon your blood

to an anemic language, by twenty-one, you are steeped
within a suspended city, the operator says there is no fare
to pay today, beyond the subway’s static walls of each
other’s unknown whereabouts, in this prolific silence

the city always veers from, this ultimatum to every nation:
With us. Against us. You stand with an X-ray of the real,
its massacres difficult to decipher, your own struggles written
in an impossible language, a necessary one, you parse

the city’s wires, at the threshold of doctrine you form
to be on another tongue, you concrete a common thing.

Editorial Reviews

“The city exacts its towering tolls upon the life that comprises it, the life it ingests, the life living in emergency within it, and Anna Lee-Popham inventories the aftermath with beautiful, exhaustive precision in Empires of the Everyday. Teeming, keening with loss, these poems pull at the threads of our present world and push us to insist on a better one.”
—Laurie D. Graham, author of Fast Commute

“Anna Lee-Popham’s Empires of the Everyday activates the city as contemporaneous theatre and chaotic film strip, showing its underbelly and contrasting currents through freeze frames and montage. Here, you expand and multiply into others, into me, into we, existing in the city’s palimpsestic sediments, forming its grammar. Questions shape pathways as the city channels you into its sinews. Through Lee-Popham’s taut, precise, and muscular language, you address its data and intentions until ‘you become again unknown to yourself’ and ‘make a city possible.’”
—Oana Avasilichioaei, author of Eight Track

“‘The city brews new dangers daily / then sells you remedies for the fear’ writes Anna Lee-Popham in her debut poetry collection, Empires of the Everyday. These brilliant poems function as defamiliarizing machines, compelling the reader to step back and notice the parallels between Lee-Popham’s fictional empire—with its violence, propaganda, and alienation—and our own. Dunya Mikhail said that ‘poetry is not medicine—it’s an X-ray.’ Lee-Popham’s dystopian poems show us the corrosiveness of empire while simultaneously reminding us that our empire is not inevitable. We can change it, and we must, as Lee-Popham implores us from the very beginning, ‘You stand with an x-ray of the real, / its massacres difficult to decipher, your own struggles written / in an impossible language, a necessary one, you parse.’”
—Paige Lewis, author of Space Struck