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Poetry General

Side Effects May Include Strangers

by (author) Dominik Parisien

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
    List Price

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Ask, Can we for a moment make of beauty / the measure of our pain? and I will answer. To be ill is to be a body bursting with strangers. A curiosity. A narrative to interpret. Dominik Parisien's debut collection is a poignant celebration of the complicated lived experience of disability, a challenge to the societal gaze, and a bold reconfiguration of the language of pain. A powerful contribution to the field of disability poetics, Side Effects May Include Strangers is an affecting look at the multitude of ways a body is both boundary and boundless. Parisien takes bpNichol's claim that "what is a poem is inside of your body" and localizes the inner and outer lives of disabled, queer, and aging bodies as points of meaning for issues of autonomy, disability, sexuality, and language. Balancing hope and uncertainty, anger and gratitude, these poems shift from medical practice to myth, from trauma to intergenerational friendship, in an unflinching exploration of the beauty and complexity of othered bodies.

About the author

Dominik Parisien is a writer, editor, and poet and the author of the chapbook We, Old Young Ones. He lives in Toronto.

Dominik Parisien's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Parisien's poems are paeans of fiercely tender queer love that write with -- not through -- disability, depression, and illness, without false narratives of progress. Side Effects May Include Strangers is a necessary and life-affirming book of poems." Hamilton Review of Books

"I have to admit I was not prepared for how exquisite the first poem is in [...] Side Effects May Include Strangers. It is the kind of poem that, for a poet when you read it, it gives you an immediate sense of satisfaction, and also tendrils of envy which for me marks the quality of an excellent poem. It is the kind of poem that for a young poet with a first book says I have arrived." The Miramichi Reader

"Parisien's poems never move away from pain and suffering, but the beauty of the book lies in its most important thesis, which is to prove that pain is not an affront to beauty. Parisien's rebellion towards the representation and perception of physical and mental ailment is framed perhaps in heart-wrenchingly beautiful and gentle poetics that stands in the face of expectation." Arc

"If 'words are artificial / constructs we impose / on natural phenomena,' then communicating the elemental human experience of love and pain requires a new lexicon. Fortunately, Dominik Parisien gifts us a new vocabulary for the inexpressible in this luminous collection of poems. The impossibility of language as a mirror for pain is explored in gorgeously lucid terms. Parisien carves intimate portraits of daily life; the rich spectrum of disability in its radiant texture is detailed with exquisitely clear precision. By poetic alchemy, hurt is transmuted from medicalized language to mythical expression. A rethinking, reframing, recontextualizing, and radical reimagining of the trial by fire that is chronic pain, Side Effects May Include Strangers answers the question: 'Can we for a moment make of beauty / the measure of our pain?' Grounded in authenticity, crafted with careful grace and attention, these poems enable the heart to sing." Roxanna Bennett, author of Unmeaningable

"Dominik Parisien's Side Effects May Include Strangers shines light onto and into the lives of medicalized, queered, and disabled bodies. In their venous fireworks, these poems are astonishing flares that illuminate a seized body 'bursting with strangers,' or diagnostic tools that operate 'the way a blade' makes 'a body easy to interpret.' These are provocative, linguistically dexterous poems that invite you to reimagine the shape and possibilities of living with illness and pleasure." Adam Dickinson, author of Anatomic

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