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Cecily Nicholson, from small-town Ontario via Toronto and South Bend, relocated to the Pacific coast almost two decades ago. On Musqueam-, Squamish-, and Tsleil-Waututh-occupied lands known as Vancouver, she has worked, since 2000, in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, most recently as administrator for the artist-run centre and mental health resource, Gallery Gachet. A part of the Joint Effort prison abolitionist group and a member of the Research Ethics Board for Emily Carr University of Art and Design, Cecily was also the 2017 Ellen Warren Tallman Writer in Residence at Simon Fraser University. She is the author of Triage and From the Poplars, winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.
November 2017 : Here’s to fifty more years of Talonbooks!
October 2017 : New poetry in the house!
August 2017 : Talon poets in Contemporary Verse 2: Convergence
January 2017 : Cecily Nicholson is the new writer in residence at SFU
January 2016 : Checking in with Cecily Nicholson
April 2015 : Interview with Cecily Nicholson in Room Magazine
March 2015 : From the Poplars to the B.C. Book Prizes
February 2015 : From the Poplars to the City of Roses
January 2015 : Three Talon Poets in “Canada and Beyond” Periodical
January 2015 : Our Best of 2014, According to the Year-End Lists
November 2014 : Two New Poetry Reviews: From the Poplars & DOWNVERSE
May 2014 : Meta-Talon: Launched and Loving It
April 2014 : Tonight! Spring Poetry Launch in Vancouver
April 2014 : Tonight! Spring Poetry Launch in Calgary
April 2014 : It’s Poetry Month!
January 2014 : Browse Our Spring 2014 Catalogue!
BOOK AWARDSFrom the Poplars
Winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize (B.C. Book Prizes, 2015)”
QUOTES OF NOTEWayside Sang
“Cecily Nicholson’s poetry expresses a deep solidarity extended across time and space, and across divisions between the human and nonhuman, animate and inanimate. … Wayside Sang is a book of road poetry, a text in modern mechanized movement across “landscapes built for cars.” … This is a border-erasing poetry … The history of racialized oppression is obviously complex enough on its own; work like Nicholson’s nevertheless sends us out to imagine both the deepest possible structures and extensions of human alienation, as well as the most personally affective forms such oppressions can take. Poetry is all the better off for the challenge of this work — for both its love, and for its lunacy.”
Wayside Sang “feels like gravel and grit in your mouth. Nicholson writes about destroyed industrial landscapes and communities, letting the us picture the small, worn out towns struggling to maintain themselves in the face of environmental and industry changes. … Maybe this is what poetry is really about – finding connections in strange places between things that we would never have seen without a poem to show us.”
—Alli Vail, Reading Writers Fest blog
“Nicholson’s work has long been engaged in the book length poem/suite, but there is something about this new collection that holds itself together as a complex breath, constructed as a single, ongoing line. … Through Wayside Sang, Nicholson composes her own songs to the wayside, and the music of her lines is unmistakable.”
"Cecily Nicholson takes us through the North American landscape marked by machinery, memory and imagination in poetry that is angry and yet tender, beautiful and painful. She shows us how we can and cannot be on these lands that we cannot yet land on, these “muddy places of manufacture” that coerce relations to industry and separates us from land and kin. These are poems that are fierce, poems that are of love."
—Juliane Okot Bitek, Author of 100 Days
"As if one poem was the sum of one hundred minds, Nicholson’s poetry seems like it should not be possible. Should not be possible, yet she shows us how words can reveal the clock parts of a steel beam or silences of a carpet bomb. Within a short run, she pulls off impossible internal harmonies of definition and image. Reinventions of logic, reinventions of scale, reinventions of blues and jazz run triumphantly through this masterpiece. Nicholson’s poetry is the confidence of a people who stand against oppressors, and can declare that all prophets belong to us."
—Tongo Eisen-Martin, Author of Heaven Is All Goodbyes
"The strife between strife and its other has a content all its own in this fucked up world, where we have to live the unliveable. That dialectic is irreducible. The necessity of pleasure is irreducible especially when and because it seems obscene. Poetry is suppose to show that, even more than it’s supposed to remark upon that and Cecily Nicholson’s work does this at the highest level of intensity! Wayside Sang ’s wayward swing makes small, pulsing disunities of pulse like the muffled but still multiphonic heartbeat of the earth. The song of the earth, old and new, is sung at a place by the side of the road. Wayside’s social logic sang this then and now, on edge and over it, underneath and inside outskirts of the city where we stay and the commune that we follow."
—Fred Moten, Author of A Poetics of the Undercommons
QUOTES OF NOTEFrom the Poplars
“From the Poplars is a compelling blend of poetic research, personal infusion, and historical subjectivity while remaining urgent and insightful. It’s a call to arms for environmental consciousness, and a text monument of loss and shame.”
“Nicholson writes through and around Poplar Island, working from historical research, observation and an eye towards social justice, exploring what Dorothy Livesay famously called the ‘documentary poem,’ providing a kind of poetic, historical and critical portrait of the island, its people and those who have impacted upon either or both. … a long poem that does more than simply replicating information, but using that information to help shape a series of collage movements in the form of the long poem.”
– The Small Press Book Review
“[Nicholson’s] meticulous reportage allows language itself to reveal the cruel ironies and paradoxes of our place in the world.”
– Garry Thomas Morse
“In this subtle construction, Cecily Nicholson invigorates the long documentary poem. Through the investigation of the history of use and ownership of a seemingly surplus space – Poplar Island in the Fraser River in the deindustrializing area of New Westminster – Nicholson poetically points to the central social and economic contradictions of the present. Like her previous book, Triage, From the Poplars is a work of great conviction and poetic attention that activates what T.J. Demos calls ‘the force of the political in art.’”
– Jeff Derksen, author of The Vestiges and a New Westminster Secondary School graduate
“This work that is this place, British and Columbia. Oh bravery where the town of towns is un/covered, o beloved place of my youth, where injustice, where absence, where silence. With a break into language that un-settles the ideology of settlement, Cecily Nicholson flenses the historical surface: this is a writer unafraid of investigation, in whose hands juxtaposition is an art, a poet tuned enough in the ear, to create a rhythm that embodies what I call L-A-N-G-U-A/lyric. Nicholson not only extends the praxis of the line, she crafts a new subaltern blues. The pages of this book vibrate; they are the material of the genuinely new: growing up here by the Fraser, attending high school up on the hill, I’d hear about ‘what happened on the Island.’ This book illuminates. Nicholson is one of a very few poets whose skill combines tender precision with flint-like intellect, and her arrow pierces. I set out to read From the Poplars in measured fashion, taking my time. The book took hold and I could not put it down. The last section of this collection scalds with discovery: we journey to The Island, ‘under bridges between ramps across from the parking lot’ and become ephemera … This is poetry to change you, to stop you in your tracks, those that run creosote soaked, down by the river. You will say the words of this book out loud, again and again. You will get in your car, get on that bus, you will board the train and visit the town of towns, oh ghosts, that sing. And, Cecily.”
– Renée Sarojini Saklikar, author of children of air india, un/authorized exhibits and interjections
QUOTES OF NOTETriage
"anything can happen in the space that Cecily Nicholson opens in triage: disasters, miracles, resistance and arpillera right before your eyes. urgent, broken, and indomitable, this book invites us to restructure our systems of perception so that we can see and acknowledge what is otherwise overlooked, devalued, deliberately forgotten. in the face of contemporary crisis, this is a poetry that is merciless in its courage and generosity, steadfast in its spaciousness and precision. this is the heart of
vancouver, beating bravely in the tent village, attesting to daily poverty, daily ingenuity, refusing to be distracted by imperial delirium."
“Triage ‘terrible mischief’ or ‘hors de combat’ po-ethics precede a city stroll shift shank into political ‘tarbaby cosmetic’ tango. so there is relentless resistant vision visit of ‘heartless ecology’ that ‘suck city’ is. Cecily Nicholson’s playful precision poetry will get you off that ‘fiscal sofa’ urbanal sprawl right into ‘morning after Vancouver’ impact passionate ‘breastbone attitude.’ right on! ‘arrest this system’!"
We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts; the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF); and the Province of British Columbia through the British Columbia Arts Council for our publishing activities.