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Book Review: Surviving Home by Katerina Canyon

Surviving Home is the latest collection of poems by award-winning writer, Katerina Canyon. It was published by Kelsay Books and is set to be released in December 2021. Surviving Home is a reflection on African American heritage and up-bringing, racism, and abuse.

Thank you very much to book publicist Kelsey for sending me an advanced reader copy of this book.

Surviving Home is a potent collection of autobiographical poems about the harsh challenges of life as told from the perspective of a black American woman. Canyon’s collection deals with the piercing themes of family breakdown, addiction, racial disparity and loss of faith. These poems were written with a lot of nuance, to the point where they sometimes felt overwhelmingly abstract, but there was also an emotive sense of intention as well.

Some of my favourite poems in this collection include the following;

My pain is sculpted into art for you to consume

This poem sharply depicts the pain of the black experience, It looks at how that pain has been commodified by the many, the media outlets and the performative activists who use it to do nothing more than denounce the system, whilst the daily realities of police brutality and marginalisation continue to persist. It is a pointed, weighty poem for self-reflection.


My Life Map

My Life Map made me think about the ways in which social factors, such as race, class, gender, sexuality, religion etc. combine to determine the overall trajectory of a person’s life. Canyon delivers this poem as though giving directions to a lost stranger en route to their destination. The stranger being a less well-off black woman destined for a life of impenetrable poverty and homelessness.


The Tyger, Interrupted

This poem left the most lasting impression on me. It is a dual narrative, whereby a girl’s reading of William Blake’s poem Tyger, Tyger is constantly interrupted by the chastisement of her mother. It has an understated profoundness that is telling. The mother’s efforts to quell her daughter’s reading is indicative of the expectations society places on women, especially those from low-income, ethnic minority backgrounds where any sense of academic agency is dismissed and familial submissiveness encouraged.


Sojourner

This poem is a beautiful ode to the influential abolitionist and civil rights activist, Sojourner Truth, whose trenchant words, such as those delivered in her 1851 ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’ speech has survived antiquity. Canyon’s poem honours the bold legacy left behind by Sojourner Truth and the ways in which it inspires her writing.


I loved the potency of this collection. There’s something very unhindered about it but most poems seemed so abstract that I felt at times, disconnected. I still sensed the emotion behind the words, but they were delivered in ways that were cryptic and might be considered inaccessible to those less than keen on poetry. Surviving Home still has my recommendation though, as it is a bold new collection that confronts the inequalities of our times.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

More about the author;

Katerina Canyon is an Award Winning Poet, Best Selling Author, civil rights activist, and essayist. She grew up in Los Angeles and much of her writing reflects that experience.

Her first book of poetry, Changing the Lines, was released in August 2017. This work is a conversation between mother and daughter as they examine what it means to operate within the world as black women.

Katerina Canyon is a 2020 and 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her stories have been published in The New York TimesThe Huffington Post, and Folks. Her poetry has been published in CatheXis NorthwestThe Esthetic ApostleInto the Void, Black Napkin, and Waxing & Waning


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