Conyer Clayton is a writer, musician, editor, and arts educator living on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe land. Her debut full-length collection, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, 2020), won a 2021 Ottawa Book Award, and was a 2020 Relit finalist. She's released 2 albums and many chapbooks, most recently: holy disorder of being (Gap Riot Press, 2022) by VII, and Sprawl | the time it took us to forget (Collusion Books, 2020), written with Manahil Bandukwala, which was short-listed for the bpNichol award. Her second book, But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves (A Feed Dog Book from Anvil Press) is forthcoming June 2022.
Photo by Manahil Bandukwala
But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves
A Feed Dog Book from Anvil Press
But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves, Conyer Clayton’s follow-up to her award-winning debut, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, is a collection of prose poems that employs surrealism, humour, and body horror to cope with CPTSD, assault, loss, fear, and the memories of it all. The narrator weaves her way through largely aquatic landscapes—water parks, ponds, beast-filled lakes, vast oceans. She walks through time, reverting to childhood and back within a few lines, has the sureness of knowledge that exists only in dreamscapes, and foreshadows the inevitable with a calm derived from accepting the absurd. These poems, hallucinatory and unexpected, are threaded by repetition: Here is another car accident. Here is another man to flee from. Here is questioned memory. Here is the site of grief, revisited, and sometimes, within it, tentatively, hope. In these poems, Clayton explores how we question the validity of our own memories, especially those related to abuse and assault, and the way we forget—or obsess over potentially forgetting—memories of those who’ve died. These poems validate dreams, by proxy, and all internal experience as authentic and valid experience that carries wisdom…even when we don’t know it.
"This book surprised me on every page. Conyer Clayton writes prose poems that erupt with emotion, and narratives that swerve beautifully from expectations. In But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves humour is dropped in between surprising images like dynamite, and the world of memory is not as it seems, but as truthful as ever. These poems will slosh around inside your brain, will lap at your heart and will tickle you like the tide coming in, before they overtake you."
—Dina Del Bucchia, author of It's a Big Deal!
“In Conyer Clayton’s poems, water is the medium for grief and touch, memory and dream. In vignettes that are expansive, taut, and aqueous, she holds spell and humour in the same breath. The speakers in her poems don pink bikinis, post on socials, and are late for poetry class with Dionne Brand. This book heralds Clayton as a poet unafraid to trust the sentence and break the line for sobriety and foxes to swim right through to us.”
—Shazia Hafiz Ramji, author of Port of Being
“If dreams hold metaphors, they also hold the edge of real knives, words that could cut through the page to reveal or resolve a trauma—if only the dream didn’t lurch away. In the ruthless logic of dreams (do I abandon this pig or my family?), violence and death float into view, then bubble to the surface, evaporating. The dreamer morphs through roles—woman, child, sister, daughter, lover, survivor—circling danger with the calm remove of wakefulness. Conyer Clayton’s elegant prose poems are more than a dream diary. They are a testament to survival.”
—Sachiko Murakami, author of Render
We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions, 2020) Winner of a 2021 Ottawa Book Award
Finalist for the 2021 ReLit Award of Poetry
Available for purchase through Guernica Editions, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, or your local bookseller
Audiobook available on Audible and Apple Books
In her debut collection of poetry, Conyer Clayton hovers in the ether, grasping wildly for a fleeting sense of certitude. Through experiences with addiction and co-dependence, sex and art, nature and death, she grapples for transcendence while exploring what it means to disengage. What is revealed when you allow yourself to truly feel? What do you ask for to carry you into life, and where do you land when this fails? And when you are finally, beautifully, emptied out, who are you? The poems in We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite wonder aloud amidst tangled revelations, and yearn to be lifted away.