Spring 2022 Poetry Preview: Cane | Fire by Shani Mootoo | Book*hug Press

Spring 2022 Poetry Preview: Cane | Fire by Shani Mootoo

Next up in our Spring 2022 Preview series comes internationally celebrated writer and visual artist Shani Mootoo’s Cane | Fire, an immersive and vivid collection that marks a long-awaited return to poetry.

Throughout this evocative, sensual collection, akin to a poetic memoir, past and present are in conversation with each other as the narrator moves from Ireland to San Fernando, and finally to Canada. The reinterpretations and translation of this journey and its associated family history give meaning to the present. Through these deeply personal poems, and Mootoo’s own artwork, we begin to understand how a life can not only be shaped, but even reimagined.

“From the first exquisite poems to the collection’s lyrical and vulnerable culmination, Shani Mootoo undertakes a daunting and necessary vision: to extricate personal history and recast it” writes Doyali Islam, author of heft. “What emerges is bravely unruly, with viscerally felt lines that merge evocatively with Mootoo’s visual art. This work dissolves the stuffy confines of poetry, not needing to be ‘anything but [its] majestic self’.”

We’re delighted to share an audio introduction from the author herself. Enjoy!

In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from the book, which you can read—and also enjoy!—below. Cane | Fire will be released on March 15, 2022, and is available now for pre-order, either from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.


The star magnolia over Frankie
Is not Frankie
The tree, now fifteen feet tall reaches farther
Leafless to the May blue sky
She is not Frankie
There were lofty reasons for placing her
Above the rosewood urn
But she isn’t Frankie
In a breeze her thousand ear-like petals canter-dance
But no, not Frankie
Each strokable incandescent bloom
Uncannily akin to Shih Tzus’ silky hair
Does not mean she is Frankie
In sunlight her silver incandescence
Oddly, smells of groomer’s whitening shampoo
You would not have liked those little insects on you, would you, Frankie?
My heart, amazed at how perfect my choice
Sinks back to that time before, and I remind myself
A tree is not a dog, is not Frankie

Her unselfish bountiful display will last to the end of the week
Then be gone until same time next year
Would it have been kinder, Frankie, to set us both free?
Her petals will wilt and brown, fall to the ground
Do I cane myself or honour you, Frankie?

Suddenly, I see I’ve missed again
The cherubic beauty of a star magnolia

She hadn’t meant to be anything but her majestic self

Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland, grew up in Trinidad, and lives in Canada. She holds an MA in English from the University of Guelph, writes fiction and poetry, and is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Mootoo’s critically acclaimed novels include Polar VortexMoving Forward Sideways Like a CrabValmiki’s DaughterHe Drown She in the Sea, and Cereus Blooms at Night. She is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Arts Award, a Chalmers Fellowship Award, and the James Duggins Outstanding Midcareer Novelist Award. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and includes the collection, The Predicament of Or. In 2021 Mootoo was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Western University. Her work has been long- and shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Dublin IMPAC Award, and the Booker Prize. She lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

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