Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon

Source: Book Publicity Services
Paperback, 108 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon is a collection of poems that reflect on how home is not always the haven many of us feel that it is or should be. “The vast dark but sunlight-speckled ocean/While knowing they have everywhere/And nowhere in the world to flee.//” (from “Involuntary Endurance,” pg. 13)

The opening poems of this collection explore the dark shadows of home, and the narrator often tells us that they wish for a “happy ending,” but these are not those kinds of poems. Canyon unflinchingly explores the scars of abuse, neglect, and the fear that propels the narrator to consider suicide. “I held the knife in my hand/I propped open the blade/I sharpened it against petrified wood/But I could not slice my flesh//” (from “I Wish I Could Tell You This Has a Happy Ending,” pg. 15) The poems also explore what it means to be a woman and a Black woman in a white world.

These poems make you weep. In “Thoracic Biology,” the narrator says, “For the most part I want to learn to let go,/to hurt a little less./My heart is what hurts the most.//Where did I learn to/breathe through the pain, to/cut off the sword piercing through//” I find that I do this; try to breathe through the pain of whatever moment I’m in. Where did we learn to do that? Why is it OK that we need to do this? My experiences are not the same as Canyon’s or any other Black person, but I empathize with those feelings of deep loss, fear, and emptiness. These poems make you want to take action; reach inside these lines and pull these young children out and protect them from harm.

At 13, I found a Bra

Along my Sierras grows an
    orchard of knowledge of good
    and evil. I take my beatings. I 
    bind myself in woman's hood.

I hook the clasps
along my curved spine.
Only the band knows
the stress of my heart.

I am told every woman 
pays her debt with pain.

    When the daffodil opens,
    the last breath of childhood releases.

Canyon asks the reader how can we survive home when it is at the root of so much trauma? Shall we keep on praying as the narrator suggests in “A Plea to the Inane”? Or do we “hold my brother’s hand./I clench my breath./His scream lowers to a bleat.//” (pg. 47, “All Day Long”)? How can so much pain not force us to go crazy, to lose our minds? Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon is a harsh look at abuse, racism, gender discrimination, and so much more; it is a testament to survival and what it means to hold hands and push through the pain and into the light.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Katerina Canyon is a 2020 and 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her stories have been published in New York Times and Huffington Post. From 2000 to 2003, she served as the Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. During that time, she started a poetry festival and ran several poetry readings.

She was featured in the Los Angeles Times and was awarded the Montesi Award from Saint Louis University in 2011, 2012, and 2013. She has published multiple chapbooks and an album.

Mailbox Monday #666

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

This is what we received:

Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon from Book Publicity Services.

Katerina Canyon’s poems offer intimate accounts of home as the locus of danger — and homeland as a state of oppression. They are at once urgent and mysterious, full of ocean depths and surging currents. Far from nostalgia, home inspires in this poet a vigilance, keeping watch on herself and others. Her very language is charged with the alert intelligence that offers a means of survival, and metaphors that transform pain into poetry. —Devin Johnston, author of Mosses and Lichens

Katerina Canyon’s poems dive into history unafraid to explore the complexity of home and family and acknowledge: the sea is filled with bones. This powerful, engaging collection where we see the billowing skirt of sunset asks again and again: How do get past our pasts? Smart, poignant, compassionate, Canyon’s poems remind us that strength happens despite one’s childhood and one’s country; they exclaim, We can choose whether we are stuck / In darkness or in light. Kelli Russell Agodon, author of Dialogues with Rising Tides

In lush language and startling images, Katerina Canyon unveils a story in blood and bone of a speaker who survives domestic cycles of addiction and abuse, terrors handed down from the plantation through generations of her kin . . . Like the Phoenix, the speaker dares to draw near destruction to name our violent histories in order to claim a survivor’s eternal understanding of how to love, how to mother, and how to teach the world that We cannot be bound. We are free. We are infinite.  —Katy Didden, author of The Glacier’s Wake

What did you receive?