The Canadian Girl by Shannon StewartThe Canadian Girl by Shannon Stewart

The Canadian Girl

byShannon Stewart

Paperback | October 31, 1998

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"Many of Stewart's poems honour the ordinary and domestic; others get dressed up and strut their stuff. The female body and mind, from adolescence to maturity, bask in their glory, seducing the reader from cover to cover."
--Lorna Crozier

In this first poetry collection, Shannon Stewart spans a century of female experience, from an 1890s Victorian housekeeping "how to" to her own journey into womanhood. From corsets to chewing gum, hysteric convulsions to conception, Stewart explores body, soul and the daily task of living with wisdom and wit. Whether examining a bizarre sexual ritual of puberty or a Victorian woman's penchant for separating male and female authors on her bookshelf, Stewart's is a real-life poetics that is earthy and expressive, astute and funny.
Shannon Stewart was born in Ottawa in 1966 and raised in British Columbia. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and her poems have been published in Breathing Fire: Canada's New Poets, The Dominion of Love and numerous literary magazines. Stewart lives in Vancouver, where she has served as poetr...
Title:The Canadian GirlFormat:PaperbackDimensions:80 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.32 inPublished:October 31, 1998Publisher:Nightwood EditionsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0889711690

ISBN - 13:9780889711693

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Page-turning poetry OK, conflict of interest up front, I am the evil brother of the author. But I really enjoyed this book, my wife enjoyed it and although some of the material wasn't appropriate for her, my eight year old liked many of the poems. Favourites include "Mr. Wrigley" and "Circle Jerk" among many others. The poems describe a narrative arc without lapsing into either pedantry or pretension. Although profoundly feminist they are not exclusionary but rather include male readers into the female experience and teach us much about ourselves, our wives, daughters, mothers, and yes, sisters.
Date published: 1998-12-29

Read from the Book

The PoemI once thought up a poem, he says, surprising the young woman, his wife too, by the look she gives him. Or maybe she's used to these moments of his, when he is feeling particularly generous having rescued the girl from her smoky campfire, invited her to liqueurs and hot coffee, as the forest grows dim, the tidal river filling up behind them with the night sea. He's proud of this camp, the split logs, the kitchen counter fashioned from remnants found in the forest, and the station wagon ready for bed, down bags and lanterns and Agatha Christies they would get through by the end of their vacation. And he's glad for the booze he's brought, to hold off the chill after driving so far to find a spot like this, where he wants to say something beautiful into the night, like I once thought up a poem. And now that he's said it, feels a little reckless, wondering if he can remember that poem at all, so long ago, driving all night towards home, the highway an empty runway under the moon. But it does come to him, the two women watching as he leans into the fire, reciting, June. The twenty-second. Nineteen forty-three. June. The twenty-second. Nineteen forty-three. His birthdate. Which may have been the first words that popped into his head, or maybe, the poem itself, which he somehow remembers as being more grand, but it's late, he's had a bottle of wine, and he can see his wife's a little ashamed. The woman watches him, bemused, as if she'd like to say something, but doesn't. How could she into his big, soft face, so openly theatrical, still hanging on a precious thing. And now he says, shaking himself a little, That was some poem. So you can't tell if he's admitted defeat, or really believes it, the day of his birth sung along the highway as a sort of miracle he didn't know he could speak. Maybe even then he'd shaken his head, with the wonder of it, his large hands coming off the steering wheel and cupping some unknown factor before him, in the emptiness of that highway, the light of that moon, when the whole night was his.BooksI've heard one Victorian lady arranged her bookshelveswith a grand propriety.Careful to separatethe male and female authors.Who knew what might happen if blind old Miltonwas left to stand too longby the wit of Austen?What illicit catastrophe,mingling between the coversin the black of night?I love that woman, whoevershe was, chaste even withthe dry pages of her books, believing they were capableof anything when her backwas turned.Like when we were kids, even before we could read,closing up our picture books,our thumbs marking the page,and then throwing them open again,suddenly, expecting to findsomething changed, the young princessdancing and carrying on,when she should have been beautifuland sleeping, the prince ugly,the monstersomeone we recognized.Anything could happeninside that bookwhen you closed it.Or when you opened it,which is how we became friends.Reading that line of Donne's:"God shall create us all Doctorsin a minute."Abandoning our study noteson metaphysical poetry,getting drunk on wine instead.Deciding that was the best thingwe'd learned all year.You told me about the summeryou worked in a second hand bookstore.How you lovedthe boxes of old novels.How you took them outone by one, holdingtheir wobbly spines,shaking them gently, waiting to seewhat would fall to the ground.Ancient flowers, smallcrisps of leaves and once,a seahorse, a gallant little man,with a brittle chestriding the wave of words.You gave him to me,saying he was the sort of thingyou'd thought I'd like,still intact after all those yearsof living inside a book.And you also tell me about the calligraphy of signatures inside a cover.How men used initialsbut women scrawled their whole names,intimately, carefully.The Bessies, Amelias, and Ediths.Women not afraid to be left insidewhen the cover closed,and it got dark.I'm learning it's also where books open to.Like my favourite book of poems.Every time I take it in my hand, it parts to a poem I love.But finding the same bookon your shelf, it opens todifferent pages, poemsI've never read before,so that it opens into you,showing me the places you've been touched,your hidden spotsI hadn't known until the book showed me where.

Table of Contents

The Canadian Girl

11 The Canadian Girl 1937
14 My Father and Artichokes
15 My Mother and Asparagus
16 The Diviner
17 Fists
18 Ham
19 Tarzan and Me
20 The Casualties
22 Dear Mr. Wrigley
25 Renovations

The Loves of Aunt Sophronia

29 Kitchen Poetics
30 Cleanliness
31 A Fine Art
32 In Case You Thought You Couldn't
33 The Loves of Aunt Sophronia
34 Aunt Sophronia's Breasts
36 The Perfect Boy The First Fat Man
37 Hysteria
39 The Fetish
41 My Mother's Vases
42 As a Token of Affection

Talking to God

45 At the Moment of Coming
46 Ova
47 Talking to God
48 Family Portrait: At the Sonographer's Studio
49 Gestation Suite
53 New Year's Burial
55 Feeding the New Daughter
56 Diapers
57 Childproof
58 At the Ecology Centre
59 Small Lives

Garden of Earthly Delights

63 Barnacles
64 Mystery Editor Stalks Library
66 Books
69 The Poem
71 The Linguist
72 Garden of Earthly Delights
73 In the Elevator, a Fart
75 Imagine the Frog
76 Icarus Revisited
77 Circle Jerk

79 Acknowledgements

From Our Editors

Shannon Stewart examines the meaning of being a Canadian girl today. The witty, earthy and expressive poetry of The Canadian Girl captures the intrigues of first friendships, the first blush of love and sexuality and the adventures along the road to womanhood.