Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Anatomy of Clay - Gillian Sze (ECW Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Anatomy of Clay.  Gillian Sze.  ECW Press.  Toronto, Ontario.  2011.

Here is a kicker for you!

I might have found a perfect poem.  It is on page 18 of Gillian Sze's The Anatomy of Clay and it is called "Cigarette".

Today's book of poetry is not going to share this poem because we want you to find this book and read it for yourself.

Sze is quite the poet.  Her excellent work feels so casual and light - when in truth there is nothing casual about it.  Sze has laser vision.

The Taken Wife

These evenings
you find more joy in the television
than in me:
your face an empty dish.

Tonight's show,
a woman tells her daughter:
your life becomes what you pay attention to.

I remind myself to use jasmine lotion
after I emerge from the shower
and yet, each morning,
I fail to do so.

Domesticity is more than
the cup of coffee
I set at your side
as you listen, one ear to morning news,
the other to the traffic.

It is the distortion
that takes places when all that's left
is the cooling stovetop,
a dripping shower,
a mix-up between
compassion and compression,
the latter felt
with each plunge of the French press,
each squeeze of a package of brown sugar.

Before you come home,
I wash,
tumble dry on low,
and fold myself into your drawer.


Good poems are like good movies, they allow you to, invite you to, insist that you, inhabit them. Gillian Sze's The Anatomy of Clay is a pleasure palace of cinemascope type renderings that all retain that home movie feel.

Sze seems to have access to an instant intimacy device which cloaks her poems in the familiar.

from Delilah In Seven Parts


Delilah lost the baby two months in. She doesn't like the details
and tries to forget most of them. All she knows is that shortly
after, Thomas stopped coming home at night. Sometimes he'd
be gone for two whole days. Delilah started reading the book
Sally gave her and would write Post-it notes to herself that she'd
stick to the bottom of her underwear drawer. She would write
out pieces of advice like, How to discover a cheater: search his
car; or How to discover a cheater: bring him close and note any
peculiar scents.

After Thomas came right out and told her, Delilah locked
herself in the room, chopped off her hair so it hung just below
her ears in jagged locks and packed her belongings in her
suitcase. When she got to the bottom of the drawers, her eyes
were so wet that they stained everything incomprehensible. She
couldn't even read her own writing: How to discover a cheater.
It didn't really matter though. She realized later that they were
both saying the same thing.


I am utterly won over and convinced.  Gillian Sze writes with humour and charm and a playful surgeon's knife.  The Anatomy of Clay is one of those surprisingly good books of poems where you can open to any page and feel the full force of Sze's dynamic and consistent pen.


My seven-year-old nephew
tells me that he is fourteen
in shark years.

I bark twice.

The whale has me beat.
It knows six different sea languages,
and I, on land, know two.

One day, I tell him,
you'll stare at someone
and all expression will be lost.

A linguist can attest.

How are we all not the same,
as we lie here like cows
waiting for rain?


a fox
like a woman.


This poetry is as precise as it is pretty.  Sze's ability to be down to earth is chthnoic.

If this book were a vegetable it would be an onion.  Every poem/layer as sweet as the next, every single one as good as the last.  Everyone in the office loved this book.

Gillian Sze

Gillian Sze is the author of three chapbooks published with Withwords Press: This is the Colour I Love You Best(2007), A Tender Invention (2008), and, most recently, Allow Me to Conjugate (2010). In 2004, she received the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and her collection, Fish Bones (DC Books, 2009), was shortlisted for the QWF McAuslan First Book Prize and longlisted for the 2010 ReLit Award in poetry. Her work has appeared in a number of national and international journals. She co-edits Branch , a quarterly online magazine showcasing Canadian art, design and writing. She has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Concordia University and is currently pursuing a PhD. The Anatomy of Clay (ECW Press, Spring 2011) is her second poetry collection. Her most recent book, Peeling Rambutan , has just been published by Gaspereau Press this spring.

"A contagious lyrical energy ignites when concept gives way to necessity and Sze's subjects--family, place origin--are given voice."
     Winnipeg Free Press

"Gillian Sze's debut collection dazzled... The poetry is intelligent and playful... at once pared to the bones--pun inteneded--and wondefully rich and sensual."
     McAuslan First Book Prize jury citation for Fish Bones



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