The Only Card in a Deck of Knives is a groundbreaking new collection in the area of sickness poetry. Within these poems, Lauren Turner aims to reclaim the "hysterical" label given to sick women throughout history. Rather than shying away from the emotional urgency and raw vulnerability surrounding a terminal diagnosis, Turner shines an interrogative light upon it. These fierce poems are written from the perspective of a twentysomething female speaker with a terminal disease, a speaker who is preoccupied with maintaining the illusion of health, but then refers to herself as "dying" in the next line. Fascinated and repelled by the societal impulse to gussy up diseases that take violent, and sometimes deadly, tolls upon women's bodies, Turner uses these lyric poems to juxtapose the violence of a gendered illness with the violence encountered by women and non-binary people in society. The Only Card in a Deck of Knives unpacks society's impulse to pull away from sick women and examines why we discredit their professed pain, symptoms and emotions.
Lauren Turner is a disabled poet and essayist, who wrote the chapbook We're Not Going to Do Better Next Time (knife | fork | book, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grain, Arc Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Puritan, canthius and elsewhere. She won the 2018 Short Grain Contest and was a finalist for the 2017 3Macs carte blanche Prize. She lives in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal on the unceded land of the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation.
"An exquisitely feral ballet, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives burrows into the belly of poetry, its guts and blood. Lauren Turner expertly orchestrates swift melodies out of fables, cocktail hours and illness to counter the magical beast that is the literary life, its toxic lore, power dynamics and embodied sacrifices. Never have I witnessed anyone wield our shared illusions and realities with such earned purpose and defiant precision. Here is a new mythology that may topple the towers that loom darkly over our lives and art." - Adele Barclay, author of Renaissance Normcore and If I Were in a Cage I'd Reach Out for You
"'A disease can't be equated to an abuser,' acknowledges Turner, and yet: 'on my worst days, I recollect my early twenties and hypothesize that I poisoned my body with bad men.' Written with the fearlessness, ferocity and dark humour of a survivor, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives is a powerful hybrid collection about blooms and rot, youth and death, and the marks that abuse and illness leave on a life." - Amy Berkowitz, author of Tender Points
"This sensational, defiant debut holds the complexity of trauma, sickness and care with caution and intelligence, velveteen and latticework. 'There's no origin myth, only women / split open like pulpy peach,' and 'Blame is so reductionist,' Turner writes. With insight and wit, she looks you in the eye to say, 'If that analogy angers you, it was intended to.' Each page is equal parts song and dance, written in skillful language that reminds us 'curtains don't open, they expose.'" - Tess Liem, author of Obits