This week’s Fall 2022 Preview spotlights Learned by Carellin Brooks. Set in the 90s, alternating between the storied quads of Oxford University and the dank recesses of London pubs given over to public displays of queer BDSM, Learned chronicles poet and Rhodes Scholar Carellin Brooks’ extreme explorations of mind and body.
In these poems, the speaker trembles on the verge of discovery, pushing her physical limits through practices of pain, permission, and pleasure. But her inability to negotiate the unspoken elite codes of Oxford begs the question: how to unlearn a legacy of family dissolution and abuse? Bold, nuanced, and ultimately triumphant, Learned chronicles an intimate education in flesh, desire, and bodily memory.
“An exuberant Blakean song–of experience and innocence, of body and mind. With wry wit, Brooks evokes a unique education—Oxford by day, London by night—and hard-won enlightenment,” writes Brett Josef Grubisic, author of My Two-Faced Luck.
See the video below for a creative introduction and reading by Brooks!
And enjoy the following excerpt! Learned will be released on November 1, 2022, and is available now for pre-order, either from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.
(Oxford, Michaelmas 1993, New York, Summer 1993)
sleep fled from planes or buses
all the little bottles drink me
Try to forget. Vain instruction as ever.
How to obliterate Mick’s (1993)
hand on shoulder pressing down, mouth open Yes?
Knees ground into cheap motel room carpet
You like this don’t you?
Yes. But she’s gone now,
like everyone else. Or me.
No more of that now.
No anaesthesia turns out
for that sweet torn memory.
Flight arrested, dropped like a shot bird, through thick cloud.
Debarked in disarray, dishevelled.
Anyway I’ll never have to—
Thrust my hand in the box.
Smooth sheet of white paper
quarterly amounts, pounds sterling, dull coins
weight warmed metal dropping in my palm
ransom bride’s price forfeit.
No front door coconut matting Welcome (Go Away)
Chopped in rough miniature rectangle, hobbit’s
fairy tale entrance.
It’s fine, I’ve been lots of places
Not like this where I didn’t fit in at first,
where everyone stared in silence
spine tingle crawling scalp
Perfectly all right
Carellin Brooks is the author of One Hundred Days of Rain, which won the 2016 ReLit Award for Fiction and the 2016 Edmund White Award for Debut LGBT+ Fiction, and was published in French by Les Allusifs. She is also the author of Fresh Hell, Every Inch a Woman, and Wreck Beach. Brooks lives in Vancouver and is a lecturer at the University of British Columbia.