Body Work

Body Work



About the book

If Body Work begins by writing desire through a belief in the stability of the physical body, this is undone in exploring symptoms of disease, new self-knowledge and rewriting one’s personal story. Because Body Work explicitly undertakes to write of a protracted and often painful period of chronic illness, these poems complicate notions of ability and disability. Connecting all six long poems are prose footnotes chronicling a natural history of human skin. This emphasis on skin, as metaphor for the body, allows for both an exploration of the desire for connection as well as a fear of vulnerability. Body Work is also interested in expanding notions of what poetry is, or could be, and is especially interested in both language play and innovative lyricism. Of this poetry, Julia Emberley, editor of English Studies in Canada says: “Emilia Nielsen plays the dermographer and writes the skin as if she is wearing its language inside out. There is a lusciousness in Nielsen’s language; you can not only taste the words but also feel the desire for touch in them.” In spare, arresting language, Body Work explores not only pleasure but pain, wondering how to repair a self forever changed by illness.

About the author

Nielsen, Emilia

Emilia Nielsen’s debut collection of poetry, Surge Narrows (Leaf Press, 2013), was a finalist for the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Her poems have appeared in literary journals across Canada including Descant, The Fiddlehead, Grain, and PRISM international, which nominated her work for a Pushcart Prize. She holds a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice from the University of British Columbia, a MA in English from the University of New Brunswick and a BFA in Writing from the University of Victoria. Throughout 2017–2018, Emilia was Visiting Scholar at the Canadian Literature Centre at the University of Alberta. In summer 2018, she will join York University as Assistant Professor, Department of Social Science, in the Health & Society Program.


from "DONE"


Now, just past solstice,
a minute of each day drops into night, skipped heartbeat.


Down a no exit lane. Roadside
drifts of cottonwood leaves: yellow,
otherworldly. In a neighbour’s pasture
a cross marks something gone. What
do I care? Winter dim, scant
daylight and me impatient.
Get a move on.


Ankles raked a few times. Nothing
that can’t be cleaned up with soap,
vitamin e to prevent a scar. Give up

stuff easily. Just more to pack.
Changed my last name so I’d no longer
be bound. And before bed, blot my face
with lotion. Complicit in erasure.


Long into an argument
that can’t be followed. As if
the furnace’s fan blade has unwound
itself from the bolt and whirls loose around its axle.

If it could be stopped, if we could
hold each other for a moment. One leading the other
outside to the deck, stars pressed against the night like bits of flint—


The dog in the backyard, barking,
hurls herself at a pair of crows.

Charges a bed sheet flapping on the line;
mouths a work glove;
sleeps on the outside doormat
ears pricked for the ticking of a car engine.

Circles the yard;
sky bruises blue.


Cupped in my hands a tough, fragile
thing from a roadside nest of leaves,
still warm and shit-smeared. To take
home, wash, fry in a cast-iron pan.
Delicate blood-scrawl across the albumen—


At the edge
of the logging road nothing
but tall grass, movement,
a shape out of focus
sharpening—a bear cub
on its hind legs sniffing
the wind. Might have been
standing in a patch of sapling alder
coated in dust, or cottoning fireweed,
fur the softness of seed fluff;
might have wailed
showing pink gums and milk teeth
as the car cut into morning.
But it faded back into grass
where it first emerged,
fur licked and glowing.


             At the edge
of the logging road nothing
but tall grass, movement,
a shape out of focus
sharpening – a bear cut
on its hind legs sniffing >>

— Rob Mclennan Rob Mclennan's blog

Join us on Facebook Facebook Follow us on Twitter Twitter

up Back to top