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The Given by Daphne Marlatt

The Given

  • Paperback $14.95

    Mar 18, 2008 | 136 Pages

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Praise

“One of our most powerful postmodern poets, able to say so much quietly, there, or just under the surface. . . . Marlatt is our poet of the heart, documenting movements and missives like no one else can, conveying the painstaking minutiae of process, thought and feeling.” Books in Canada

“The borders between autobiography and fiction are crossed as elegantly as are those between poetry and prose, lyric and documentary. . . .” — Brick

Author Essay

When I first started work on The Given, I planned to write the last in a trilogy of novels exploring mother-daughter relationships, this time taking a closer look at the limiting 1950s definitions of what constituted a good mother and housewife and at the despair of trying to live up to those prescriptions. What I ended up with is a long poem narrated by disparate voices, a sort of vocal opera.

The Given traces the arc of early mother-daughter closeness breaking into divergent paths as the daughter grows into adolescence. The formal question driving my writing was how to sustain the tension of this story in a minimal narrative of prose fragments. Some of these fragments are grounded in the place where I live, the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver’s East End where homelessness and drug traffic meet community art and domesticity, all on the site of the city’s original immigrant basin. The poem juxtaposes this current neighbourhood of social non-conformity and racial difference located in the heart of the city with the suburban social conformity of North Van in the 1950s. The poem sets fragments of telling against one another so as to hear what happens in the spaces between what is said and what isn’t said, how they co-exist. How fatal accident can shake up peripheral lives. How early friendship foretells sexual identity. How a death in the family can be both a statement and a mystery.
— Daphne Marlatt

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