In Vancouver for Beginners, the nostalgia of place is dissected through the mapping of a city where readers are led past surrealist development proposals, post-apocalyptic postcards, childhood landmarks long gone, and a developer who paces at the city’s edge, shoring it up with aquariums.
In these poems you will traverse a city lined with rivers, not streets. Memory traps and tourist traps reveal themselves, and the ocean glints, elusive, in the background. Here there are many Vancouvers and no Vancouver, a city meant for elsewhere after the flood has swept through. This place of the living and the dead has been rewritten: forests are subsumed by parks, buildings sink and morph, and the climate has changed.
Vancouver for Beginners is a ghost story, an elegy, and a love song for a city that is both indecipherable and a microcosm of a world on fire.
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Praise for Vancouver for Beginners:
“Ingenious, mesmerizing and gorgeously written, Vancouver for Beginners showcases Leslie’s remarkable talent and singular voice. It conjures an imagined city that is many cities, a place as fantastical as it is achingly real, a city of the dead and the living, of plexiglass cliffs and electric trees. This is a book to savour and reread.”
—Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving
“Alex Leslie’s Vancouver is as surreal as the dream city itself. These dispatches from Vancouvers past, present, and future overflow with piercing, wry vision. Leslie casts a keen eye over short-sighted development and pans out to the wide-lens perspective of deep time. Meanwhile, the city’s inhabitants grapple with the day-to-day: parasitic developers, potentially rising radioactive waters, friends lost one by one to the opioid crisis. Captivating and urgent, Vancouver For Beginners is a must-read for anyone who ever woke up bewildered in Vancouver.”
—Sachiko Murakami, author Get Me Out of Here
“In Vancouver for Beginners, Alex Leslie beautifully contributes to the long poetic tradition documenting, interrogating, and re-imagining the city of Vancouver. This is a new guidebook that refuses utopia and the erasure of traumatic history. It’s a book for after the pipelines and before the collapse but there’s still a poet here, in this place, writing the invisible and trusting us to read.”
—Jordan Scott, author of Night & Ox
Press Coverage for Vancouver for Beginners:
Bright Books for Sunny Days: Summer 2019 Recommended Reading List —Writers’ Trust of Canada
23 Collections of Canadian Poetry to Watch for this Fall —CBC Books
Most Anticipated: 2019 Fall Poetry Preview —49th Shelf
Vancouver Author Q&A: A Terminal City for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow —Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun
A ‘Best of’ List of 2019 Canadian Poetry Books —rob mclennan, Dusie
Vancouver author Q&A: A Terminal City for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow —Vancouver Sun
Six B.C. writers up for Jewish Book Awards —BC Booklook
“If something is life-changing, I don’t want to hear about it. I don’t take recommendations, almost as a rule. Some exceptions. But: I do give unsolicited recommendations. Baldly, brashly. And I do recommend Alex Leslie’s volume of poetry: heartily.” —Jessica Poon, The Ormsby Review
“Leslie’s poems are ingenious and complex, following versions of Vancouver past, present, and future… Every poem is assured, every word chosen for its weight, and the result is a beautiful collection that is both inspired by, and lamenting for, a city that is never satisfied.” Andrea MacPherson, Canadian Literature
Can You Map a City Through Verse? —Fiona Tinwei Lam, The Tyee
Alex Leslie was born and lives in Vancouver. She is the author of two short story collections, We All Need to Eat, a finalist for the 2019 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the 2020 Nancy Richler Memorial Prize for Fiction, and the 2020 Kobzar Award, and People Who Disappear, a finalist for the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Debut Fiction and the 2013 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. She is also the author of two prose poetry collections, Vancouver for Beginners, winner of the 2020 Lohn Foundation Prize for Poetry, The things I heard about you, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. Alex’s writing has been included in the Journey Prize Anthology, The Best of Canadian Poetry in English, and in a special issue of Granta spotlighting Canadian writing, co-edited by Madeleine Thien and Catherine Leroux. She has received a CBC Literary Award, a Gold National Magazine Award, and the 2015 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers from the Writers’ Trust of Canada.