Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Read an Excerpt from Brenda Leifso's Barren the Fury

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Brenda Leifso

Brenda Leifso's Barren the Fury (Pedlar Press) finds power in what is traditionally forbidden — embracing anger. The women in these poems turn expected narratives on their head, transform stories of salvation into stories of destruction. They mirror the female experience with the neglect and abuse suffered by our natural environment. These unflinching, lyrical pieces deftly and slyly question our expectations around what is "natural", while weaving a story of mother and daughter, questioning and exploring.

We're thrilled to offer a special excerpt of Barren the Fury today on Open Book, courtesy of Pedlar Press. Get a taste of Brenda's powerful poems below.

Excerpted from Brenda Leifso's Barren the Fury


to the end of a dream
christened war.

you must decide when and
where waking
and story begin.

which lies
remain necessary. understand

from you we expect


Don’t mistake me for deliverance.
I have conjured no rainbows in my lifetime
I have not gathered elephants two by two
nor crows, lions, dogs nor bears.
I have forgotten how to count
have erased multiplication and purification
from memory. In my salt-soaked brain, I hold
only one. I.

On my raft — tall cedars joined with hair rope —
I I I do nothing but float. Bob for fish bellies, banana clumps,
a stray leg once in a while. Horrid, hideous — yes.
I I I’ve grown exhausted with myself,
with floods and the thousand shades
composing each hour of each endless day.
Everything comes to nothing
in the end.

I did try, at first.
Bread for the girls who ventured into the streets.
A dollar here, a dollar there to get a pregnant woman out
when there was still an out to get to.
But I am not a brave man.
God does not speak to me.

In every man’s life there comes a time
to pull the blinds,
lock the door.

The Beginning

That first spring, no ominous sign.
Crows squawked, continued
to eye the world. They carried their days
like cherry twigs. Rain washed the
blossoms along the gutters and all the earth moved
within softened veins, spilling into,
flushing out, salmon steering towards the sea.

My daughter, though, was born finless.

Eddies caught her – one by one caught all the stillborn daughters,
pinned them under water and rock:
we could not save them. Then the sun flared.

We gnawed our own skin, cut our leaking breasts.
We raged at doctors, who could not

Conception I


Leave the cuttings on the counter,
the dish rag in the sink.
Go out from the city to a rain-dry plain.


Your romances
do not matter now.
Think about consequence.

Brenda Leifso is an award-winning author, the recipient of an MFA in Creative Writing (among other degrees), an editor and the president of a national poetry magazine. She's also the mother of three children who inspire her to work for beauty, creativity and the rights of women and children worldwide.

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