LONGLISTED FOR THE LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS PAT LOWTHER MEMORIAL AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS RAYMOND SOUSTER AWARD
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 in 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
“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, winner of a 2021 Ottawa Book Award and 2021 ReLit finalist, was released May 2020 with Guernica Editions.
Purchase available from Guernica Editions, Indigo, Barnes and Noble, 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.
We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite was reviewed by Dessa Bayrock in the print edition of Arc Poetry Magazine Issue 92, Chris Banks at The Miramichi Reader , Carla Scarano D'Antonio at The Temz Review, The Anti-Languorous Project, and Kim Fahner at periodicities.
“We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite is a poetry collection that truly values its reader’s time and ear. Every page brims with the sort of insight and restraint that most debut collections only give brief flickers of. Clayton furnishes poems about loss, pain, autonomy and healing with the little things of life: dirty pans, breakfast grains, “the field / behind - hazy with black butterflies.” In every word and every patch of blank space, Clayton demonstrates a poetic wisdom - that brevity can be expansive, that vulnerability can be power.”
—Jury for 2021 Ottawa Book Awards: Ben Ladouceur, Kagiso Lesego Molope, and Ian Roy
"The poems in this stunning debut construct a world by colliding its sharpest angles. Instead of an orderly pastoral landscape, Clayton gives us “a pasture / with a rusted tractor.” Instead of happily-ever-after, we get “ruins of rock, the frantic mess / we made.” These poems manage to wrench beauty from loss, absence, departure—the various goodbyes that transition us along our individual paths. In this book, Clayton’s speaker emerges from the darkness of grief into “the space between / earth and sky,” a realm of generous possibility, where poetry begins."
—Kiki Petrosino, Author of White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia and Bright
"Conyer Clayton’s rich, unpredictable lines are imbued with the transformational traces and scars that humans, nature, and contraptions leave on one another. Vivid sounds and images stagger Plinko-like through these deeply personal poems that display both murmuration and volatility. This is a book that resonates."
—Stuart Ross, Author of Motel of the Opposable Thumbs, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, and The Book of Grief and Hamburgers