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
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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.