But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves
from A Feed Dog Book by Anvil Press, Spring 2022
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.
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, or through my online store. 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 Witch Wife and Hymn for the Black Terrific
"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 and A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent
"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."