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.
PRAISE FOR But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves:
“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.”
— The Ampersand Review
Conyer Clayton is a writer, musician, editor, and gymnastics coach living on unceded Algonquin Anishinaabe land. Her debut collection, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite, won an Ottawa Book Award and was a Relit Award finalist. She’s released two albums and many chapbooks — most recently, Towers by VII, of which she is a member, and Sprawl, written with Manahil Bandukwala and shortlisted for the bpNichol Chapbook Award. But the sun, and the ships, and the fish, and the waves is her second full-length collection.