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Posted: Thursday March 8, 2018
Book Recs for International Women’s Day 2018

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we asked our staff members to recommend favourite Talon books that contribute to the advancement of women and to the body of literature by women.

Intertidal by Daphne Marlatt

Editor (and poet in her own right) Catriona Strang recommends Daphne Marlatt’s new volume of Collected Earlier Poems, Intertidal.

Daphne Marlatt was at the centre of the West Coast poetry movement of the 1960s, studying at UBC and with many of Donald Allen’s New American Poets, most notably Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan. An early member of the avant-garde TISH group, which turned Canadian poetry for the first time to a focus on language, Marlatt’s career has spanned five decades and a range of formal styles and concerns. In early 2006, she was appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished service to Canadian culture.

Intertidal: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1968–2008 was published in the fall. This rich tome offers Marlatt’s perceptual and Vancouver-centric work of the 1970s, her feminist writing of the 1980s, and her later explorations of environment. Intertidal collects a broad selection of this poet’s groundbreaking work, including poetry from sixteen published collections and a number of previously unpublished or uncollected poems.

Of this collection, Erín Moure has written:

In Marlatt, there is such acuity of hush and cadence: she has a way of inhabiting sound that is space inhabiting her body, become ours, readerly – an equilibrium held on the quiet fulcrum of “listen” that is also “glisten,” a gamma complexity whether in England or Malaysia, in Steveston or on Vancouver’s Powell Street. She is a poet of crucial importance.

An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton

Production editor Chloë Filson recommends An Honest Woman by Jónína Kirton. Published in the spring of 2017, this is Kirton’s second collection of personal, accessible poetry that speaks to the advancement of women via personal stories and reflections on political and social encounters. Kirton confronts her readers with beauty and ugliness in the wholesome riot that is sex, love, and marriage. From the perspective of a mixed-race woman, Kirton engages with Simone de Beauvoir and Donald Trump to unravel the norms of femininity and sexuality that continue to adhere today.

Jónína Kirton is a prairie-born Métis/Icelandic poet, author, and facilitator. She graduated from Simon Fraser University’s Writer’s Studio in 2007 and is a member of its advisory board. A person of between, Kirton also serves on the Room Magazine editorial board and is an active member of its Equity and Inclusion Committee. She recently featured in the Growing Room Feminist Literary Festival in Vancouver.

Kirton has of late been using this collection as a starting point in workshops on writing as healing, and has seen the book find a place in the hearts of emerging writers who are writing through trauma. She recently commented on her year-old book: “It has taken me some time to figure out how to introduce the book and to understand that it may be a useful healing tool and/or educational tool around the world that women and girls are born into.” How wonderful that a book of poetry is out there working so hard for us all!

Read a poem from this collection elsewhere on Meta-Talon.

Editor Charles Simard recommends a memoir and a play that trace the emergence of feminism in Quebec. “These authors,” he notes, “had more courage than most in writing what they did,” and their writing made great waves in their society.

As Always: Memoir of a Life in Writing by Madeleine Gagnon

In the words of the Montreal Review of Books, As Always is

an engaging read that invites both admirers of Gagnon’s writing and a scholarly audience. To the credit of [translators] Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, Gagnon’s voice is unmistakable – intelligent, passionate, and determined – in what appears to be an effortless English translation.

Gagnon, one of Canada’s greatest literary figures, reflects on life at the centre of Quebec literary arts. Re-examining the influences of her early life in a large, rural Catholic family, Gagnon not only explores her rejection of unexamined values as part of her intellectual development but also her refusal to be categorized by her gender. This is an account of a life well lived, told with candour, wisdom, and an inextinguishable sense of wonder.

Read an excerpt from As Always on Meta-Talon.

The Fairies Are Thirsty by Denise Boucher

According to the 19th-century historian Michelet, “Les fées” were women who would rather sing than pray. For this crime, they were punished by being imprisoned in containers that would be opened only at the end of time. In Les fées ont soif Denise Boucher focuses on this image. Alan Brown’s English translation of the play, The Fairies Are Thirsty, is a daring, passionate, and poetic exploration of the role of women through all time. In the play, three women – a housewife, a whore, and the Virgin Mary – fight to break out of the stereotyped roles in which they have been imprisoned for centuries. At the end of the play they stand alone, “before themselves,” “renewed,” and ask the audience to imagine a world in which such stereotypes do not exist.

Born in 1935, Denise Boucher has written many plays dealing with feminist issues. She lives and continues to write in Montreal.

And let us not forget those Talonbooks which have been recently lauded by others!

The 49th Shelf, for example, published a #MeToo reading list that recommended Sachiko Murakami’s The Invisibility Exhibit.

Look for In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver – edited by Leslie Robertson and Dara Culhane – on the Vancouver Public Library’s recently published reading list, “Remembering The Murdered and Missing Women of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.”

Finally, if you’re just looking for a fun novel that happens to have been written by a woman, Québec Reads recommends In Search of New Babylon by Dominique Scali (translated by W. Donald Wilson). It’s “an exceptional piece of historical fiction”! You can read an excerpt from this novel elsewhere on Meta-Talon.

Happy International Women’s Day!