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In her novels, poetry, and prose, Amber Dawn has written eloquently on queer femme sexuality, individual and systemic trauma, and sex work justice, themes drawn from her own lived experience and revealed most notably in her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life. In this, her second poetry collection, Amber Dawn takes stock of the costs of coming out on the page in In her novels, poetry, and prose, Amber Dawn has written eloquently on queer femme sexuality, individual and systemic trauma, and sex work justice, themes drawn from her own lived experience and revealed most notably in her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life. In this, her second poetry collection, Amber Dawn takes stock of the costs of coming out on the page in a heartrendingly honest and intimate investigation of the toll that artmaking takes on artists. These long poems offer difficult truths within their intricate narratives that are alternately incendiary, tender, and rapturous. In a cultural era when intersectional and marginalized writers are topping bestseller lists, Amber Dawn invites her readers to take an unflinching look at we expect from writers, and from each other.


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In her novels, poetry, and prose, Amber Dawn has written eloquently on queer femme sexuality, individual and systemic trauma, and sex work justice, themes drawn from her own lived experience and revealed most notably in her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life. In this, her second poetry collection, Amber Dawn takes stock of the costs of coming out on the page in In her novels, poetry, and prose, Amber Dawn has written eloquently on queer femme sexuality, individual and systemic trauma, and sex work justice, themes drawn from her own lived experience and revealed most notably in her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life. In this, her second poetry collection, Amber Dawn takes stock of the costs of coming out on the page in a heartrendingly honest and intimate investigation of the toll that artmaking takes on artists. These long poems offer difficult truths within their intricate narratives that are alternately incendiary, tender, and rapturous. In a cultural era when intersectional and marginalized writers are topping bestseller lists, Amber Dawn invites her readers to take an unflinching look at we expect from writers, and from each other.

30 review for My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems

  1. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    An exquisite, hard-hitting collection of poetry not without its moments of humour and an ample amount of free verse experimentation with spacing, repetition, spells, and business letters. Amber Dawn writes about the burden and joys of writing from the perspective of a woman, a queer person, a survivor, and a sex worker. Being an artist in the public realm, performing or having to convince others of your trauma, dealing with abusers in positions of power in the literary community, and more. A boo An exquisite, hard-hitting collection of poetry not without its moments of humour and an ample amount of free verse experimentation with spacing, repetition, spells, and business letters. Amber Dawn writes about the burden and joys of writing from the perspective of a woman, a queer person, a survivor, and a sex worker. Being an artist in the public realm, performing or having to convince others of your trauma, dealing with abusers in positions of power in the literary community, and more. A book to reread and savour. Full review on my blog here. "I wouldn't mind if poetry mimicked racing tipsy down the subway stairs / in platform heels to barely catch the last train of the night." "A poem is always a mirror / that we must hold up before us" "Who do I confide to about pain when pain is my praxis / and best performance?" "But you (literally you) are reading queer and desperate poetry / so may I assume you too have never been afforded / an uncomplicated story?" "My kink is to loudly love those / who've been told to keep quiet." "Closure / is like the conspicuous consumption / of real life."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Domenica

    To put it eloquently, holy fucking shit. Also, the line “When the mind processes trauma through metaphor is it compassion?” has been on a near-constant loop in my head.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alanna Why

    "An anagram for "creative writing" is "tragic interview." HOLY SHIT!!! I chugged this collection like it was a can of cheap beer and I was at a party in first year. I had planned to go see Amber Dawn on her book tour for this at Ottawa Writer's Fest, but purchased it directly from the publisher after life was canceled because of the uh, quarantine. My Art Is Killing Me is a super powerful collection of prose poems about the relationship between creative writing, sex work, queerness, trauma, and "An anagram for "creative writing" is "tragic interview." HOLY SHIT!!! I chugged this collection like it was a can of cheap beer and I was at a party in first year. I had planned to go see Amber Dawn on her book tour for this at Ottawa Writer's Fest, but purchased it directly from the publisher after life was canceled because of the uh, quarantine. My Art Is Killing Me is a super powerful collection of prose poems about the relationship between creative writing, sex work, queerness, trauma, and healing, as well as the power dynamics between professor/student, writer/reader, and maker/consumer. My favourite poems were "the stopped clock," "Hollywood ending" and "how hard feels." I've only read Sodom Road Exit by her before, but now I want to dive into her back catalogue even more. I'm going to be chewing on these poems for a looooong time to come.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    full review to come at some point in a forthcoming spring issue of Quill & Quire, but this was so incredibly good. she’s really out here writing lines like “The feral shade of blue that shows itself at four am...”!!!!!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Margaryta

    REVIEW FORTHCOMING IN THE TOWN CRIER

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    This was a really phenomenal collection of poetry and searing truths from a talented and accomplished writer. Themes include violence, trauma, sexuality, queer identity, academia, social media, censorship, body celebration, and enforced shame.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Ferocious callout of academic elitism and institutional protection of abusers -- and a complex inquiry into the stakes of writing truth, and trauma. Amber Dawn's new collection is equal parts devastating and uplifting, and includes some of her boldest and most structurally exploratory poems. First lines (from "The Stopped Clock"): I was costumed in a white tiger striped bodysuit when I found out I'd been accepted into the graduate creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. The Ferocious callout of academic elitism and institutional protection of abusers -- and a complex inquiry into the stakes of writing truth, and trauma. Amber Dawn's new collection is equal parts devastating and uplifting, and includes some of her boldest and most structurally exploratory poems. First lines (from "The Stopped Clock"): I was costumed in a white tiger striped bodysuit when I found out I'd been accepted into the graduate creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. The bodysuit was one size too small and my labia majora squeezed out from either side of the gusset whenever I sat down.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zach Linge

    A sack of bricks to the chest.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Payne Yance

    I'll come back when I reflect more on this collection of poems. I'm glad I picked this one up another day. Gorgeous art cover, and equally beautiful poems within pages. I'll come back when I reflect more on this collection of poems. I'm glad I picked this one up another day. Gorgeous art cover, and equally beautiful poems within pages.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dana Neily

    Wow. A new favourite poetry collection. Favourite poems are basically all of them but stand outs are An Apple or Haunted, and Fountainhead. The Ringing Bell was also the most perfect conclusion. Read this and think deeply about the relationship between trauma and beauty in art.

  11. 5 out of 5

    hiaa123

    I was drawn in by the cover art and title of this book and wow, what a powerful, angry, passionate collection of poems. Amber Dawn's confessional poetry explores otherness, queerness, the lives of sexworkers, and the experience of the artist in a forthright way designed to make you think about the ways in which you're complicit in society's need to brush marginalized communities under the rug. Important lines to consider from Hollywood Ending: "I've begun to ask myself, how is it we fail to see ne I was drawn in by the cover art and title of this book and wow, what a powerful, angry, passionate collection of poems. Amber Dawn's confessional poetry explores otherness, queerness, the lives of sexworkers, and the experience of the artist in a forthright way designed to make you think about the ways in which you're complicit in society's need to brush marginalized communities under the rug. Important lines to consider from Hollywood Ending: "I've begun to ask myself, how is it we fail to see nearby violence while we naively imagine distant violence? ... How are we imagining the lives of others? What are we failing to see? What vulnerability, yes, and also what agency and what resiliency are we overlooking? What do we gain from the imagined or quantifiable stories of others? How does story, and our interpretations of it determine what we blame and who we protect? How does story decide what we subjugate and what we celebrate? Think about it, sex work is both invisible and it is a mirror. Hold it up." I loved this musing from Fountainhead: "Imagine if the grounds we walk were built from queer love? What song would our queer scion sing six thousand years from now? What shape Would story take? If our bodies were safe and fluid loose, waxy and loud and fluent in a madrelingua, in a kin spit, in the looped vernaculars we have long deserved, then imagine what words we'd know so well that even our subconscious could speak this love back to us in a dream." I love love love the line from Outsider Artist: Where do I belong after I wrote myself as an outsider?" I really appreciated Amber Dawn's final exploration on the experience of an artist who puts out their work and then has to interact with readers online, a constant bombardment of differing interpretations and opinions and attacks and suffering being projected onto her writing and her life. What a burden artists must bear, especially in the current age of the Internet. "Whatever is written becomes beautifully suspended. Have I transcended or have I stayed my own trauma? ... I want poetry that makes me feel like I am back on the viewing side of that two way mirror. ... Is it too late for me to believe in being uplifted? Is it too late for me to make grand statements about poetry? ... And how will I claim my body this time? And will poetry still help me make this claim?" So thank you to Amber Dawn and other artists who speak their truths, being vulnerable to appropriation and aggression, in order to inspire and educate.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    i want to read more poetry like this: challenging in both content matter and in form. my art is killing me picks up hammers and means to dismantle systems and insidious ways of thinking, attacks men who abuse their power and hurt the vulnerable, and refuses to let off the hook those who perform feminism without inclusivity. these poems sing with righteousness, only i felt i was missing something (it's on me - this would very clearly have been a richer read if i was more familiar with amber dawn' i want to read more poetry like this: challenging in both content matter and in form. my art is killing me picks up hammers and means to dismantle systems and insidious ways of thinking, attacks men who abuse their power and hurt the vulnerable, and refuses to let off the hook those who perform feminism without inclusivity. these poems sing with righteousness, only i felt i was missing something (it's on me - this would very clearly have been a richer read if i was more familiar with amber dawn's back catalogue, and to be fair, this collection very much made me want to be). nevertheless, these were really good, even though i sped through them far too fast (again, on me). i especially was moved by her use of very direct address - it created a specific brand of intimacy that i rarely feel outside of queer narratives, and which i was very surprised and pleased to find here. thank you to edelweiss+ and the publishers for this review copy!

  13. 5 out of 5

    rabble.ca

    Review by Alexandra Valahu: Toward the end of My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems, Amber Dawn offers the Poetry 101 course I wish I had been taught in school. "And the wraithy hiss that often visits jaw and ear is poetry./ And the gritty hymns that enchant mending skins are poetry," she writes. "The feral shade of blue that shows itself at four a.m. is poetry." Poetry is visceral and expansive. And for readers of Amber Dawn (the name is a mononym), poetry is an act to speak your truth. Through th Review by Alexandra Valahu: Toward the end of My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems, Amber Dawn offers the Poetry 101 course I wish I had been taught in school. "And the wraithy hiss that often visits jaw and ear is poetry./ And the gritty hymns that enchant mending skins are poetry," she writes. "The feral shade of blue that shows itself at four a.m. is poetry." Poetry is visceral and expansive. And for readers of Amber Dawn (the name is a mononym), poetry is an act to speak your truth. Through the various expressions of her poetry, whether hiss or hymn, she names abuses of power in certain spaces and communities. By doing so, she shows us how poetry can witness us speaking out in myriad ways. Keep reading: https://rabble.ca/books/reviews/2020/...

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marilou

    Unlike anything I have ever read, and in a very good way. “My Art Is Killing Me” is a very queer poetry collection in the sense that it goes way beyond what you normally expect of poetry. It plays with boundaries so well. I don’t think I have ever read a poet that was so straight to the point. I really appreciate this bluntness to talk about trauma. Last but not least, I love what Dawn has done with her breaks—it feels like every space, every silence has its purpose on the page; it’s truly beauti Unlike anything I have ever read, and in a very good way. “My Art Is Killing Me” is a very queer poetry collection in the sense that it goes way beyond what you normally expect of poetry. It plays with boundaries so well. I don’t think I have ever read a poet that was so straight to the point. I really appreciate this bluntness to talk about trauma. Last but not least, I love what Dawn has done with her breaks—it feels like every space, every silence has its purpose on the page; it’s truly beautiful. To read and reread.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    BOOOOOF this hit hard, in a really good and awful way. Amber Dawn's writing is like an ion cannon, not in that it doesn't have nuance (it does; a lot of it; beautiful nuance), but in that it beams right at you, and you can't get away, and you shouldn't get away. The sections about UBC and the character of the "tenured professor" hit the hardest, as did the very fabulous and frightening illustrations. BOOOOOF this hit hard, in a really good and awful way. Amber Dawn's writing is like an ion cannon, not in that it doesn't have nuance (it does; a lot of it; beautiful nuance), but in that it beams right at you, and you can't get away, and you shouldn't get away. The sections about UBC and the character of the "tenured professor" hit the hardest, as did the very fabulous and frightening illustrations.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lea Taranto

    Amber Dawn lights a match to my soul and shares powerful, piercing truths in this collection of freeverse poetry. While these poems draw upon the author’s personal experiences they are all relevant to any one who reads this book. Part battle cry, part confessional, part survival guide, spell, love letter and queer femme Queen gospel, this collection is full tour de force!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn H

    Oof, this is excellent! Poetry that touches on vulnerability, trauma, sex work, queerness, academia. Incredibly powerful. If you were disgusted by the “UBC Accountable” shitshow, read this collection. Trigger warnings needed.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Poppy Fitzgerald-Clark

    I loved this!!! “I mani verdi. Pollice verdi. Come si dice we have the gift of growing food from soot? Come si dice we are well fed because we lit it all on fire? Come si dice there is always something on the other side of fire?”

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zibbernaut

    No pulled punches, this was a very interesting read as we take a look at Amber's past and how she got where she is. Her worries about how much her work reveals about her, and a very honest account of her life as a sex worker. Very interesting. No pulled punches, this was a very interesting read as we take a look at Amber's past and how she got where she is. Her worries about how much her work reveals about her, and a very honest account of her life as a sex worker. Very interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    poetry for survivors. so fucking beautiful <3

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alexis

    A wonderful, powerful and thought provoking collection.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura Applebee

    Stunning. Had to stop and cry half way through.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lanika

    The Ringing Bell is - of course - tenderly genius

  24. 5 out of 5

    Luka

    One of the best poetry books I've ever read, no question. I wanna write stuff this good one day. One of the best poetry books I've ever read, no question. I wanna write stuff this good one day.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chloe Ruffino

    Best poetry I have read in a very, very long time. Loved the writing style - modern and continuous story over multiple pieces, you feel like you really get a sense of the writer.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily Gillespie

    Beautiful collection of poems on the value and price of art-- especially for survivors creating art with their own truths and experiences. I will be re-reading this book for sure.

  27. 5 out of 5

    max

    Fierce poetry on trauma, the impact of art on the body, re/claiming the body (is it possible). As always, love letters to the riffraff. Amber Dawn’s poetry is magic.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Desirae

    A ver apt collection to partake in on Halloween, I think. Very strong poems throughout.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gabriel

    ARC given by Edelweiss+ for Honest Review Incredibly moving, well researched and written, sex positive. Every one who claims to be a feminist needs to read this and add to their collection.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dominique

    “My kink is to loudly love those who’ve been told to keep quiet. Erotic boom. I want outlaster love. Against-all-odds love. I, finally, want myself, and I want slick fluency in this desire.”

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