The Given

The Given

Book - 2008
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Winner of the Dorothy Livesay Poery Prize
Finalist for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award


"You remember -- what is it you remember? / the feel of home, that moment of coming into your body. . . "

So begins Daphne Marlatt's haunting and multi-layered long poem, which reads with all the urgency and depth of a novel. Set in present-day and 1950s Vancouver, The Given begins with the news of a mother's death, then opens up to become an intricate tapestry of lives, as Marlatt deftly interweaves the past with the present, replicating the arc of memory itself, while questing for -- and questioning -- the meaning of home and identity. Circling around the narrator's mother -- theatrical, troubled, imprisoned in the small existence of a 1950s housewife, and a persistent presence in the lives of others -- The Given is a ceremony performed for her, and for all "those who have left, who go on burning in us." In luminous, deeply resonant fragments, Marlatt resoundingly answers the drive to live with deep attention in a now that is, for all of us, "tangled in the past."
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2008
ISBN: 9780771054587
Branch Call Number: 819.1 M343g
Characteristics: 124 p. ; 22 cm

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quagga Dec 29, 2009

In a story that begins in present day Vancouver, a mother's death leads a daughter to go back in memory to her teenage years, the 1950s, examining her mother's life from that viewpoint. The narrators' parents were British immigrants from Malaysia and her mother had difficulties adjusting to life as a homemaker with three daughters in North Van. The hopefulness and prosperity of that era are evoked - along with the major concerns of the time, like the Cuban missile crisis. Daphne Marlatt contrasts these scenes with present-day life for a lesbian in the same "world-class city." Slogans and newspaper headlines are incorporated into the text, along with brief excerpts from writers like Virginia Woolf and Marguerite Duras.

When I was about 1/3 of the way into the narrative, I still could not say what exactly it was that I was reading. Was it fiction? Autobiography? Was it poetry or not? I examined the back cover, where it is called a "haunting and multi-layered long poem which reads with all the urgency and depth of a novel." So there you go. I loved it.

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