I, Nadja and Other Poems
Poems that reach towards the lost or the might have been. ;
In her debut collection, Susan Elmslie delves into the life and mental illness of the real person behind André Breton’s surrealist romance, Nadja, recovering the story of a flesh and blood woman who became a symbol for the unknowability of the feminine and the irrational side of the human psyche. Ultimately, I, Nadjais about many women as Elmslie’s lyrically astute, confident lines move into the daily world of motherhood, adolescent memories and heroines like Marie Curie and George Sand. With her great fury of a voice, Elmslie’s poems are forthright and daring, fearlessly rhapsodic, as “they sing/your shape through doorways, sing/the whole house awake. ”
I can get perfect distance between us, maybe
language is what washes the sheets eventually,
snapping on the line, telling us how neat things must be.
Like irony: a man spent eighteen years building a plane, only
to have it crash on its maiden flight, killing him completely.
Some throw themselves in to the role of the timeless lover,
believing only in their own ability to endure, endure,
and prepare for that chance meeting at an airport bar.
You look at me and I know I have blown my cover.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
from “Four Postcards”
“What range and abundance! A catalogue of trench coats, a daughter’s first hunger, the stories of George Sand, Marie Curie, and, of course, Breton’s love, the unforgettable, unknowable Nadja. Each of these poems is fully felt, finely formed, astonishingly different from the next. Susan Elmslie compels you to linger with admiration?but also to keep turning the pages, breathless for the next discovery. ” – Stephanie Bolster
“If for no other reason, buy this book for the ‘I, Nadja’ poems. They are brilliant. But there is another reason, the book itself, all of it. ” – P. K. Page
Susan Elmslie’s poetry has appeared in several Canadian journals, anthologies, and in a prize-winning chapbook, When Your Body Takes to Trembling (Cranberry Tree). She received a PhD in English with a specialization in Canadian literature from McGill University, and has been a poetry Fellow at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland. She lives in Montreal.
"There is a muted spontaneity to Elmslie's poems, a flow that works both confidence and uncertainty, writing out the end of poems that twist when they need, and continue when they need, making many of these pieces better poems than even she might be aware of. In various poems, there are apologies made, to fathers and mothers and already her new daughter; apologies made to everyone but her husband, Wes. This is a remarkable first collection form a poet many of us have been waiting on for years, and a book not easily absorbed as a whole, but poems that very quickly and immediately strike the reader in the softer places." -- rob mclennan blog
"Elmslie's attentiveness to imagery and verbs reminds me of the strengths of Karen Solie and Sharon Olds ... an exquisite inquisition."--George Elliott Clarke, Halifax Chronicle-Herald
"Elmslie, through the life and death of Nadja ... pays close attention to those forces that look with love, and often sinister intent, at the lives of girls and women."--Bill Roberston, Saskatoon StarPhoenix