BC Poetry 2017: "Acquired Community" by Jane Byers (Caitlin Press/Dagger Editions)


A drip that only smacks on the ceramic floor during torrents,
until the grout has split and gone soft,
though you tell yourself the tiles are impermeable.
One night as your wet soles slip 
while scampering half-naked to the toilet,
you give in and put down a pail
after you tend your gashed knee.

You remember weeks later, only when it is brimming over
and start to dump it down the drain,
then reconsider and heft the container to the planter of  parched lobelia
that you can never keep moist enough.

You ask them to be forgiven
but they only flourish in their soil.

You think of your brother, unforgiveable, for gay-bashing you
and there begins a slant of light 
into which context from the world pours.


Jane Byers lives with her wife and two children in Nelson, British Columbia. She writes about human resilience in the context of raising children, lesbian and gay issues, and health and safety in the workplace. She has worked as an ergonomist and vocational rehabilitation consultant for many years and is passionate about facilitating resilience in ill and injured workers. She has had poems, essays and short fiction published in a variety of books and literary magazines in Canada, the US, and the UK, including Grain, Rattle, Descant, the Antigonish Review, the Canadian Journal of Hockey Literature, Our Times, Poetry in Transit and Best Canadian Poetry 2014. Her first book of poetry, Steeling Effects, was published by Caitlin Press in 2014.


Acquired Community is both a collection of narrative poems about seminal moments in North American lesbian and gay history, mostly post-World War II, and a series of first-person poems that act as a touchstone to compare the narrator’s coming out experience within the larger context of the gay liberation movement.

The “parade” poems such as “Celebration Was a Side Effect, 1992” explores the important role parades have played in the queer movement and how they have transformed from activism to celebration. “St Patrick’s Day Parade, 2014” takes the Boston St. Patrick’s Day committee’s homophobia to task, reminding us that this is not ancient history, but an ever-transforming experience. In her long poem, “Keen,” Byers imagines a dialogue between a young queer university student and Michael Lynch, an AIDS activist, poet and scholar who helped found many gay community institutions. In this compelling poem we are reminded that the AIDS epidemic had a rippling effect, touching the lives of everyone within the gay community and well beyond.

In this second book by Byers her poems go beyond the historical perspective of LGBT rights and are living examples of progress. Acquired Community examines and celebrates community resilience.

“Byers’ poems are an important reflection on the devastation of the AIDS crisis, the ‘veiled love and lament’ of the early gay rights movement, and the memories held by queer elders.” — Leah Horlick


Arrived October 2016.


Book Launches: Done and gone!

Purchases: From the Cailtin Press website or at your local bookstore. $18.


Examining and celebrating community resilience.

The copyrights of all poems included in the series remain with their authors, and are reprinted with the permission of the publishers.

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