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Learned by Carellin Brooks

Learned by Carellin Brooks

Finalist for the 2023 ReLit Award for Poetry

Poetry / LGBTQ+
Publication Date: November 1, 2022
120 pages
5.25 x 8 inches
ISBN 9781771667876

Trade Paperback
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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.

Praise for Learned:

“Part dream or fantasy, part role play, these are half-remembered poems from a disappearing life, a hushed ego trying to recall its origins. They function like a hole in a public stall, a peep show, allowing only glimpses of the speaker’s sexual education. She records her younger self navigating that illicit grey zone between pleasure and pain, permission and complicity, and control as a tool for release, perhaps to remake how she understands the history of her body, and what others have done and can now do with it. Playful, sometimes frightening, always beguiling poems, from a writer I greatly admire.” —Michael V. Smith, author of Bad Ideas

“The poems in Learned feel like an underbelly, and they feel like the knife tip, and they feel like the cut—a chorus of identities, held precariously in one fierce speaker coming undone and becoming something new. Carellin Brooks’s poetry is the raw, chaotic interior of a heart pouring out through a speaker who invites you under her skin just to understand what she is. Vulnerable and determined, Learned is an invitation you won’t want to turn down, for a journey that will never leave you.” —Nic Brewer, author of Suture

“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.” —Brett Josef Grubisic, author of My Two-Faced Luck

“Brooks writes with clear forward-looking eyes about how she reclaimed her command of her body after sexual violation and abuse. Her lines are chiselled, ragged and disorienting, evoking the intensity of her transformation as she plays with the limits and uses of bearable pain, which overlap here with the bounds of memory. The balm of this book is Brooks makes no attempt to put her learning in a box or to label it as complete or virtuous—the meaning is here for us lucky readers to turn over, inspect, and glean from the dark glimmers and glorious bruises of her
story.” —Alex Leslie, author of Vancouver for Beginners and We All Need to Eat

Press Coverage:

Most Anticipated: Our Shelf 2022 Fall Poetry Preview 49th Shelf

48 Canadian poetry collections to watch for in fall 2022 CBC Books

November’s Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Books Lambda Literary

“Unabashed, funny, inventive, touching and self-questioning, the poems delight as a paean to the unique glory of brash, dumbfounding youth.” —Brett Josef Grubisic, Vancouver Sun

Artists Among Us: Carellin Brooks The West End Journal

“Carellin Brooks traces her bumpy path to coming of age, intellectually and sexually, in this provocative, sharply observed and often funny debut collection.” —Barb Carey, The Toronto Star

“Brooks turns the two worlds of the academic and sexual into point and counterpoint, playing with the themes of religiosity and ‘deviant’ sexuality in delightful ways.” Micah Killjoy, Plenitude

“These poems are snapshots of a student changing dress for gown as she earns respect in a world for whom children and women have little currency apart from honours attached to the lucky who seize the box and lift themselves out of invisibility.” —Linda Rogers, The British Columbia Review

Queer Coded: Interview with Carellin Brooks All Lit Up

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 HellEvery Inch a Woman, and Wreck Beach. Learned is her first poetry collection. Brooks lives in Vancouver and is a lecturer at the University of British Columbia.