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Tuesday April 10, 2018 in Books
Coming Summer 2018
A risky and profoundly unsettling work of “auto-cartography,” Mercenary English is a long poem that documents the author’s lived experience of the survival sex trade in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in the 1990s, using her time in the trade as a subversionary critical lens for exploring the physical, structural, and discursive violence of colonialism against Indigenous women and women of colour in its various instantiations. With its focus on the DTES – the neighbourhood Eng called home for two decades – Mercenary English foregrounds the literal and figurative violence behind the euphemism “missing women.” It staunchly resists the gentrification of Vancouver circa the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Olympic-Industrial Complex. It confronts the legacies of colonialism that continue to haunt the fragile “City of Glass.”
A strident and unsettling debut, Mercenary English quickly became a benchmark in Vancouver poetry and poetics. Originally published by CUE Books (2013), it seized the “politics of language” from the usual handlers and reassigned them to new terrains: the colonial battlefield, the racialized/radicalized body, and the insurgent neighbourhood. In its second edition (Mercenary Press, 2016), Mercenary English seized its own critical frames through the inclusion of a new afterword and an expansive conversation between Eng and poet/critic Fred Moten. Resonating in the streets and in the classroom, the book has been taught at post-secondary institutions across North America as poetry and in the context of decolonial theory.
In 2017, Talonbooks published Eng’s second collection of poetry, Prison Industrial Complex Explodes, which expounds upon certain themes and motifs found in Mercenary English. The two books make natural companions, and, as such, Talon is now pleased to publish this third edition, which includes the original text, Eng’s latest iteration of “how it is” (an ongoing poem-as-map), the afterword and interview from the second edition, and a new preface.
ISBN 13: 9781772012194 | ISBN 10:
6 W x 8 H inches | 112 pages
$17.95 CAN / $17.95 US
Poetry | Frontlist | Bisac: POE011000
QUOTES OF NOTE
“Angry, righteous, and incensed … a book of rage, frustration, grief, and a call to action, as well as a critique of government inaction, social imbalances, and those that have allowed and even encouraged the silence of the disappeared … Eng knows that words themselves have power, and hers is a voice that needs to be encouraged by those who need to hear it, and feared by those who wish to suppress it.”
“One of the brightest young writers on the Vancouver scene, whose work combines tart insights into gender and racial relations, a playfulness of language not always found in political poetry, and a fine ear … [Eng uses] sampling, quotation, pastiche – call it what you will – both to implicate the hegemonic discourse of neoliberal police militarism (racism at home is tied to racism as foreign policy) and to keep herself in that mix, part of the problem. She’s angry, yes, but also too smart not to realize that some of that anger has to do with herself.”
—Clint Burnham, Lemon Hound
“I situate Mercenary English in a diverse line of revolutionary poetics – including those of writers like M. NourbeSe Philip, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Kamau Brathwaite, Cecilia Vicuña, Heriberto Yépez, and Laura Elrick, to name just a few … this weaponized English is a vulnerable and tender form of revolutionary poetics [that] erupt with insurrection.”
“In Mercenary English, Mercedes Eng offers a full-throated contribution to the poetic zeitgeist that values social engagement, political documentation, and the creation of vibrant counter-narratives. Part poetic investigation, part street-level report-back, part ‘autocartography,’ Mercenary English is a tour de fightback where the political backdrop is ever-present in the foreground.”
“a mercenary pursuit to unsettle, rechart, and set ships in motion. woman at the helm. ‘dead, almost and alive’ making the money, women hold it down. honey cake. workshirts mended, an arsenal in her pocket, at the ready, everyday the frontlines. body of work on the table, more weapons in the drawer. ‘words are confusing … what’s the one for the big men dressed in boots and helmets holding shields, holding assault rifles?’ interlocking violences to be disarmed, we call war. with all her might Eng speaks from experience, intervenes to right the vertical, spits hard words that shine like justice and the concrete trembles. ‘the eagles know’”
“she knows complicit explicit illicit attack apology abattoir she is poet opticon sposed she maps narrative down her turquoise hustle her vortex velocity slams scenes frontline back alley corner she is fierce flash authentic arsenal of poems she chants protest she lookin tight women in grid stare surveillance back she speaks sex sweet easy she says come in come out fill in whole sisters now know how Mercedes spells out stasis spance how disappeared women scream shout volatile skin of text strikes oscillates back upside down fist upward soars improbable limits of the expressible she is percussive what comes round”
—Marie Annharte Baker
About the ContributorsMercedes Eng
Mercedes Eng teaches and writes in Vancouver, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. She is the author of Mercenary English and Prison Industrial Complex Explodes.
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.