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Order Through Anvil Press

WINNER of the Archibald Lampman Award!

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.

 Reviewed in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Toronto Star, Canthius, The Puritan​, periodicities​, The Ampersand Review,

and The Temz Review

The cover of But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves. by Conyer Clayton. This book cover features a bedroom completely submerged underwater with the windows flung open and white curtains floating in the water. An end table floats in the water near the top of the cover.

"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

The cover of We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite by Conyer Clayton. The cover is black and orange, a dark swirl of snake skins.

Winner of the 2021 Ottawa Book Award


 Shortlisted for the ReLit Award for Poetry

Purchase available from Guernica EditionsIndigo, Barnes and Noble, and 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.

Reviewed in the print edition of Arc Poetry Magazine Issue 92, The Miramichi Reader, The Temz Review​, The Anti-Languorous Project, and 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 ThumbsA Sparrow Came Down Resplendent, and The Book of Grief and Hamburgers

"We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite is an unpredictable and ethereal exploration of the ways we pacify our unhappiness, the masks we hide behind, and what waits to be confronted when we finally decide to give it all up. Moving through addiction, relationships, the natural world, and our ultimate mortality, Clayton's words hang in the middle-space between overt meaning and open interpretation, allowing the reader to  not just see but feel every moment of delicate, raw vulnerability throughout her work."

—Open Book

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