Grace Shiver


poems by Cathy Stonehouse

112 Pages
November 01, 2011

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Grace Shiver is a multivocal meditation on violence, trauma, loss and renewal, which wrestles with the seeming incommunicability of extreme experiences and the possibility that, as Heidegger suggests, What is spoken is never, and in no language, what is said. The manuscript is divided into six sections, each of which employs different poetic strategies to engage with a wide range of personal and historical issues and the silences that surround them.

Grace Shiver explores, through many stances, the place of the mother. This can be in terms of many elements: absence, inadequacy, frustration and a sense of being overwhelmed—as well as in terms of what Stonehouse calls “mother-like capacity” and “milk work”—in other words, as a compassionate witness. She uses the vantage point of motherhood in a variety of forms to examine a series of themes: loss, violence and renewal.

“There’s a persistent faith at work in Grace Shiver, a book of poems about the tragic memories inflicted on the victims of Hiroshima. Cathy Stonehouse sends her voice into the nightmare of nuclear holocaust where there are no words, no answers, only disconnected fragments bleeding for the dead. These poems are forms of witnessing the horror in a language created out of war wounds. What is remembered is not what is said, but the unsayable, stroked into comprehension through an averted syntax. All freedom, in the wake of war, bears the flag of human loneliness in Stonehouse’s poems. In their Haiku-like quality, many of these poems are touched by a trace of light that vivifies these tragic songs of devastation, which leave us no choice but to shiver like a child, praying for an unassailable respite. Stonehouse reminds us that the criminal justice system has little to tell the grieving mothers of murdered but not forgotten children. Through unfinished letters to lost limbs, Grace Shiver finds the words for scars that remain long after the fireball exploded in the sky above Hiroshima. A powerful, searing book of poems that resonates with the reader long after the last page has been read.”
— Rishma Dunlop, author of Lover Through Departure: New and Selected Poems

“Cathy Stonehouse’s harrowing and finely crafted poems of witness ensure that “the disappeared do not pass away,” whether the subject is the nuclear blast over Hiroshima, the infamous Moors murders in England, the loss of a child during pregnancy, or the death of an incestuous father. In the wordless aftermath of massacre, through the barren landscapes of grief and devastation, Stonehouse’s takes us on a poetic journey laden with visceral and startlingly vivid images, offering us “a way back out along scars.””
—Fiona Tinwei Lam, author of Enter the Chrysanthemum

“All too rarely a collection of poems deeply reminds me of why I love to read poetry. Grace Shivers is such a book. Cathy Stonehouse’s range and wrestle with the intractable interdependence of narrative and death is stunning.”
—Betsy Warland, author of Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing


Cathy Stonehouse is the author of a collection of short fiction, Something About the Animal (2011) and a previous collection of poetry, The Words I Know (1994). Co-editor of the creative nonfiction anthology Double Lives: Writing and Motherhood (2008), her poetry, fiction and nonfiction have appeared in a wide range of journals and anthologies including White Ink: Poems on Mothers and Mothering (2008) and Beyond the Small Circle: Dropped Threads 3 (2005). Cathy emigrated to Canada from the UK in 1988 and currently lives in East Vancouver, where she writes, edits and teaches creative writing at various Lower Mainland colleges. Check out her website for more information: www.cathystonehouse.com.


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