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Poetry Canadian

Missing Children

by (author) Lynn Crosbie

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2003
Canadian, Women Authors, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2003
    List Price

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A daring and innovative collection of new poems by the controversial author of Paul’s Case and VillainElle.

Missing Children is a daring and innovative collection of new poems by the controversial author of Pauls Case and VillainElle. Here, Lynn Crosbie creates a bold fusion of genres by taking traditional elements of the novel – dialogue, plot, and description – and weaving them through a series of narratively linked poems. Centering on a man and a woman obsessively drawn to each other, Missing Children unfolds around a forbidden relationship and a series of letters, written by the protagonist, to the parents of missing children. Infused with psychological insight, rich in cultural iconography, and written in spare, clear language, Missing Children takes us to the moral fringes of society and challenges us to judge what we find. Crosbie breaks new stylistic and dramatic ground in this compelling, original collection.

About the author

Poet, author, and novelist Lynn Crosbie was born and raised in Montreal. An award-winning journalist and cultural critic, she has written about fashion, sports, art, and celebrity. She has a Ph.D. in English literature and a background in visual studies; she teaches at the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her volumes of poetry and prose include Queen Rat, Dorothy L’Amour, and Liar. She is the author of the controversial book Paul’s Case, about the Paul Bernardo–Karla Homolka murders, as well as the novels Life Is About Losing Everything and Where Did You Sleep Last Night, a Trillium Book Award finalist. Her most recent book is a collection of poems about her father, entitled The Corpses of the Future.

Lynn Crosbie's profile page

Excerpt: Missing Children (by (author) Lynn Crosbie)


She left the house after midnight, running barefoot
her dressing gown parted, lifting like tail feathers.
And slid into the car beside me on the bench seat with two pillowcases
spilling sheer white and violets. Smoothing her wet black hair,
she looked at me evenly and took my hand.

Crow on a trembling branch.

The sky was hemmed with lavender, straight-pinned with stars.
In this silver light I looked back and saw the little one start down the
road after her.

His cowboy pyjamas billowing, he canters,
legs unsteady lariats, his arms raised.

She saw him too. Glancing in the rear-view mirror,
she pressed my knee and we accelerated, coughing up gravel and stones.

I think he was hit, the way he fell down and cried out,
brown spurs revolving against red,


A Word about the Poem by Lynn Crosbie
This poem is a code for the book, though it was not intended to be. Cruelty and loss, the birds that mass through the poems as if chasing Tippi Hedren. It is one of the first that I wrote and then I kept moving, coughing up dust and gravel as well.

Missing Children started as a short poem, in response to a short news piece a friend sent me off the wire, about a man who was arrested for contacting the families of missing children and pretending he had information about them. He then ceased all contact. He was arrested, but the police weren’t sure what to charge him with. That’s all I knew about the case, and I was drawn to it because the story is so acute, yet so wanting, with regard to any conceivable motivation (other than simple malicious mischief). I have written a lot of poems about murderers, and one experimental novel (Paul’s Case), and liked to think of them — without hubris by association — as psychoanalytical/sociological interrogations (like Elliott Leyton’s work in Hunting Humans) or dramatic monologues in the style of Browning (particularly his work with the depraved). I was always curious, I am still curious about the realm beyond good and evil, where malfeasance, motive, and rough justice lies.

My work with the Missing Children narrator is secondary, ultimately, to my engagement with the notion of “missing children.” When I started writing the book, I was noticing detritus in the streets all the time, stray mittens and shoes, barrettes, school projects and so on, objects which seemed to form a jigsaw puzzle, a foundational narrative about fate, about simple or tragic carelessness, about the ways in which we may divine the world through a series of seemingly random clues. The poem/novel’s protagonist, similarly, reads his world through these prompts; similarly, exists, as writers do,  in “silence, exile, cunning.” The resemblance ends there.

This is the first creative work I have written in the voice of a man, and while I enjoyed trying to get the argot and stance right, he is not someone I wish to carry forward — he (who is never named) is the ghost of my own inquiries; the devil that “enquires (terribly) further.” I was so interested in Hemingway and other manly men while writing the book, in the idea of stripping language to its basest form, devoiding it of metaphor and any figurative strategies other than similes — at one point, he explains a fellow criminal’s sexual violence as functioning like an engine and a key.

The book was always an engaging process, artistically;  morally; I found it disquieting, the idea of letting someone be, regardless of my distaste. It is this sort of person, not a Billy the Kid or, again, a fact-freighted criminal, who interests me now: he is the little bug that scatters when the light rises; the mushroom growing in the crevices; the discarded object, whose utility  is entirely subjective, and lost.

Editorial Reviews

“Crosbie’s poetry cannot be praised too highly for its stringently surreal beauty and consummate kiss-my-ass class.”
Toronto Star
“Lynn Crosbie is a poet for our times.…[She] uses language as if she invented it.”
Vancouver Sun

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