Conyer Clayton is an award-winning writer and editor whose multi-genre work often explores grief, disability, climate crisis, and gender-based violence through a surrealist lens. They are the author of But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. (Winner of The Archibald Lampman Award, and Finalist for the Pat Lowther, Raymond Souster, and ReLit Awards, A Feed Dog Book, Anvil Press) and We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Winner of the 2021 Ottawa Book Award, Guernica Editions), and many solo and collaborative chapbooks. They are the Nonfiction Editor for untethered magazine, a Poetry Editor for Augur, and a member of VII (an Ottawa-based poetry collective). You can find their poetry and nonfiction in Best Canadian Poetry 2023, This Magazine, Room Magazine, filling station, Canthius, Arc Poetry Magazine, CV2, The Capilano Review, and others.
Photo by Curtis Perry
LONGLISTED for the League of Canadian Poets
LONGLISTED for the League of Canadian Poets
Shortlisted for the ReLit Award for Poetry
The narrator of But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. weaves through aquatic landscapes—water parks, beast-filled lakes, vast oceans—reverting to childhood and back, foreshadowing the inevitable with a calm born of accepting the absurd. Conyer Clayton's poems, explore how we question the validity of our own memories, especially those of abuse and assault, and the way we forget—or obsess over forgetting—memories of those who’ve died. These poems validate dreams and all internal experience as authentic … even when we don’t know it.
"There is so much pain contained with this book, and through it all, the narrator survives and perseveres. While the poems do not shy away from facing suffering, neither do they crumble under its weight. ...But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. is a powerful testimony of survivorship. Set in a surreal and dreamy landscape, these poems overflow with raw emotion and wash away expectations."
—Meaghan Flokstra, The Ampersand Review
"Clayton’s exemplary collection of surreal prose poems teaches us that surviving CPTSD is a lifelong process. A process whereby we learn to move “beyond the break.” Beyond “the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves”—all those extraneous details threatening to anchor us in the abyss (“The Break”). Because those who stop treading water and “forget how to fight for life, […] are the ones who fall screaming” (“Love Interest”)."
—Elena Bentley, Arc Poetry Magazine
"From beginning to end, Clayton’s dream world remains kaleidoscopic, as ominous and cheerful as a circus or a surrealist painting. Still, the speaker in the poems remains determined, hell-bent on survival, protection, revenge. There is meaning everywhere, these poems seem to say, if you are willing to dowse for it. Or, in other words, as Clayton’s dream-self croons to a deer in a field: “I know / my hand seems empty but I’m telling you it’s / not” (44)."
—Dessa Bayrock, Canthius
"Clayton expresses the trauma of abuse and its lasting impact in viscerally evocative images...Yet this isn’t a grim book, partly because the scenarios often feature weird, funny details...but also because the speaker in these nightmarish situations actively seeks a way out."
—Barb Casey, The Toronto Star
"The surrealist dreamscape of Conyer Clayton’s latest collection provides one of the most honest and visceral depictions of living and slowly healing from CPTSD that I have ever read. While the collection can be deeply triggering and terrifying at times, it is ultimately a testament to intentional and persistent survival.”
—Emma Rhodes, The Puritan
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.