In these peculiar times, we are thrust back into ourselves in a kind of suspension: one in which only private life exists yet threatens to become trivial through a sense of mutual, overarching dread.
Lent from award-winning writer Kate Cayley is built from this tension, exploring domestic and artistic life amidst the environmental crisis and the surprising ways that every philosophical quandary—large and small—converges in the home, in small objects, conversations, and moments. The grotesque and the tedious, the baroque and the banal, intertwine in the first three sections. Meticulous depictions of spectacle run into the repetition of daily domestic life: trying to explain time to children, day trips to the planetarium, and the warnings of strangers; these are interspersed with depictions such as Mary Shelley recalling the monster, the inner life of a seventeenth century portrait sitter, and Ted Hughes’s second wife telling her story to the dead Sylvia Plath. The title section explores religious faith; how belief is itself a repetition, a slow accumulation over time, just like love or forgiveness.
Lent is an exquisite work of our era, asking us to contemplate what it means to live in a broken world—and why we still find it beautiful.
Praise for Lent:
“I didn’t think I’d forgotten how close poetry can get to us—inside our eyes, below our thoughts—but reading Kate Cayley’s poems, I feel newly awed at their sure and profound nearness.” —Sadiqa de Meijer, Governor General’s Literary Award–winning author of alfabet/alphabet
“Eventually, most of the things one loves fill one with worry, and, paradoxically, the more deeply one loves, the more quickly one is filled. Poetry fills me with worry—because, thankfully, it is always changing. But Kate Cayley’s Lent, though it is filled with love and worry, doesn’t worry me at all—not because it isn’t new; it’s as new as tomorrow—but because it is so well made. These are poems that are completed by their encounters with difficult things—they do not take note of, they live with. And they read the way the best poems do, like parts of one returned to one. I love this book; it does not worry me.” —Shane McCrae, author of Cain Named the Animal
“Gorgeous and startling, the poems in Kate Cayley’s Lent emerge as a testament to poetry itself: the desire to grapple with an imperfect world, and yet respond with praise. ‘Show me/the pith of my own heart,’ she writes, despite the darkness. These are poems filled with hope, searingly intelligent, by one of our country’s finest poets. Lent is a wonder.” —Steven Price, Scotiabank Giller Prize–shortlisted author of Lampedusa
Kate Cayley is the author of two previous poetry collections, a young adult novel, and two short story collections, including How You Were Born, winner of the Trillium Book Award and shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. A tenth anniversary edition of How You Were Born is forthcoming from Book*hug Press in 2024. She has also written several plays, both traditional and experimental, which have been performed in Canada, the US, and the UK. She is a frequent writing collaborator with the immersive company Zuppa Theatre. Cayley has won the O. Henry Short Story Prize, the PRISM International Short Fiction Prize, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction, and a Chalmers Fellowship. She has been a finalist for the K. M. Hunter Award, the Carter V. Cooper Short Story Prize, and the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award, and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize, and the CBC Literary Prizes in both poetry and fiction. In 2021, she won the Mitchell Prize for Faith and Poetry for the title poem in Lent. She has been writer in residence at McMaster University and the Toronto Public Library, and mentored emerging writers through the University of Guelph Creative Writing MFA, the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, Diaspora Dialogues, and Sisters Writes. Cayley lives in Toronto with her wife and their three children.