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Notes from a Charmed life



Again, I’ve been much remiss in updating this here blog. I’m pleased to note that Charm (Bookhug 2017) won the Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry.  The jury said nice things:

“Christine McNair’s second collection, Charm (Book*hug, 2017), brings dignity and awe to sensuality and impermanence. Fragility is experienced as strength as she examines motherhood, marriage, women’s bodies, alongside a longing for sovereignty. Both decay and intimacy reverberate throughout the collection, with deft, inventive and provocative uses of language and syntax. In Charm, McNair shows us unique truths in unexpected and mesmerizing ways, compelling our attention again and again.”

It was unexpected and involved a dizzy flight from Toronto to attend the awards ceremony then back again. I was lucky enough to read a couple months prior with the other shortlisted poets — Adele Graf (math for couples, Guernica Editions) and Shane Rhodes (Dead White Men, Coach House Books). Gratitude to my first readers (Rob, Sandy, Amy, Amanda) and my editor (Margaret Christakos) and Bookhug themselves (Jay and Hazel). Also gratitude to Kate Hargreaves who took my photo of a damaged wood panel painting and augmented the damage through to the titling. There was hesitation when I suggested the image to my publishers because of the madonna but I felt the resonance of the damage, the weirdness of the unicorn hunting (not quite on point for the typical use thereof) and the eyes hit me in the gut. So I was pleased when we ended up there in the end.

I feel lucky anyways. Embedded bit of good metal in the fingers.

I’ve also been remiss to note that I’ve been fortunate enough to have some reviews for Charm. Here are some places:

Charm is a spell-caster of vivid turns and angles, whirling with McNair’s clever, dark humour. In this volume, she visits with a macro theme of care – for children, objects, and bewitchingly, language. It’s the vehicle of language, books, that reaps a compelling amount of attention.” —Elee Kraljii Gardiner, Poetry is Dead (review content not online)

“Christine McNair, tackles subjects of conception, from literal pregnancy to the more figurative conception of art. The poems hover around an overarching theme of making and unmaking, but their expansiveness allows for each to remain distinct and precise.” — Canadian Literature, “Charmed” by Andrea MacPherson.

Charm is a skillfully crafted collection and will surely captivate any lover of language.” —Megan Callahan, Vallum Magazine, Issue 14:2 (review content not online)

“McNair uses a fragmentary, fractured line and crashing repetitions to suggest conception as a craft of its own sort of traumatic work.” —Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press 

I also gave at least one interview:

Christine McNair on How Life Events Impact Writing & the Seismic Effect of Great Books Open Book

I did some readings. The spring launch for Bookhug in Toronto and then various Ottawa readings such as Ottawa Writers Festival (Plan99 event), VerseFest, the Tree Reading Series, Sawdust Reading series and some other little bits. I particularly enjoyed ripping apart a copy of my book at VerseFest.

rob and I were able to participate in a Queen Mob’s reading during my research trip to the UK (more below) and I also read as part of the Resonance series in Montreal. But I wish I could’ve read more outside of Ottawa, pushed a bit into some western or eastern provinces, closer to when my book is released. Ah well. Time, young kids, time.

I was fortunate enough to go to the UK where the primary purpose of my trip was to research a new writing project. Something mixed genre relating to pre-eclampsia. I’m not sure what it will be entirely yet but I was able to spend some time with 17th century midwifery handbooks and 19th century theories of ‘the disease of theories’. I find pre-e fascinating and terrifying beyond my personal connection to the disease.

Brilliant time in the reading room. Quiet but for the tip tapping of my keyboard. Book cradles & blissful research.


Charm (or lost appendices)

I’ve been remiss — in all ways, of updating this blog and most updates everywhere. My second book Charm, came out this spring with BookThug, details here:

There was a beautiful launch in Toronto with a baker’s dozen other writers (almost) and then a launch in Ottawa at the Legion with Erin Robinsong and Jennifer Still.

There was a reading in Montreal as part of the Resonance reading series which was perfect. My first trip away from baby #2, sweet Aoife, who is now 18 months.

Which partially explains my remiss-miss. Along with various health issues subsequent to my second dose of pre-eclampsia. Postpartum pre-eclampsia at that. Threading that needle in the haystack.

I will be reading again in Ottawa soon — tomorrow on Saturday, October 21st, at the Manx (5pm, with novelists Michael Blouin and Barbara Sibbald), as part of the Ottawa International Writers Festival. A special Plan99 reading series event, hosted by David O’Meara.

Then later at the Tree Reading Series on Tuesday, November 14th along with Rhombus19, a sound poetry group from the University of Ottawa. Black Squirrel Books at 8pm with an open mic too. And there’s the tree workshop prior on (Multi)lingual Poetry with Manahil Bandukwala.


the shine


This year has provoked not-much, in the after recovery of the birth of my beautiful daughter. Soon to be one and I’m so happy to know her. Joyous in the face of her soon-to-be first birthday. But some floating anxiety over the illness that hit me after. A big truck. So there’s this. For what it’s worth.



To shine forth – last year’s almost-end. Or almost-stroke. Or almost-seizure. Possible-failures: liver, kidneys. Now — increased risk of cardiovascular death. 2x more likely. Heart worn thin.

Dreaming in a mag sulphide haze of Margaret Kilgallen who died of cancer days after giving birth to her daughter. Her large scale letterforms eating up the sky. Her sly folk ladies with full ladles.

The winter outside and how it stormed and the trees carried with them all the cold. Thinking of wolves. The other babies in the ward crying as they were born and for milk. My milk coming in without Rose who couldn’t be with me. I’m compromised.

Daytime visitation only, except for the last night. Where we hovered and I shifted the baby so the nurses could check my blood pressure again. Again. Again.

Not permitted to walk. Not permitted to have bright lights. Not permitted to get up. No excessive stimuli. No stress (if possible). Limited visitors.

The pressures increasing. Reflexes so quick that I nearly kicked the ER doctor in the face. My stomach a teaching tool, displaying a reflex that shouldn’t exist. Indicative.

My mother nearly choking on a hard boiled egg while I pumped milk. The milk I sent home and the smell of formula in the baby’s spit up mixed in.

Both my parents visiting, waiting at the bedside. What is your blood pressure? What is it now? What is it now?

From the ER, how I wasn’t allowed to walk but instead was wheeled back into the maternity ward. Lights, then lights, then, lights in the hallway. Watching them and then considering that if I died there’d be nothing set up for my husband and the new baby. That nothing was safe for them. Irritated at the potential of dying for birthing. Irritated at my own privilege that my response is ‘irritation’ and ‘fear’ rather than ‘resignation’.

Before the ER, my limbs swell. I can’t catch up on sleep. When I wake up, I’m still tired and crying. This overwhelming sense of paralyzing dread. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Then the headaches. And the bright lights that wake me at 4am like being hit in the eyes with flashbulbs.

How easy it would have been to dismiss all this as exhaustion or postpartum depression. My grandmother’s heart disease misdiagnosed as depression. How everything felt crooked and aghast.

How very lonesome here.

Reviews, interviews, and so on.


Random round-up of reviews, interviews, and other online novelties primarily relating to Conflict, dating from the recent to semi-recent. May update as I troll through the detritus of my memory to add more.

Reviews of Conflict (BookThug, 2012)

Review of Conflict by Meredith Darling, Matrix (summer 2013)
(no online link yet!)

Secret Lives of Letters by Melissa Dagleish (Canadian Literature)

Cassie Leigh reviews Conflict (Grey Borders site then OpenBook Ontario)

Brief review by Cameron Anstee

review (on the difficulties of reviewing spouse) by rob mclennan in the Prairie Fire Review of Books

A Knockout Debut by Grady Harp (Literary Aficionado)

Reviews of Notes from a Cartywheel (AngelHousePress, 2012)

Review of Notes from a Cartywheel by Cameron Anstee, originally published in the Ottawa Poetry Newsletter

Of Cartywheels & Autopsies:the poetry of Christine McNair & Catherine Owen by Mark McCawley


Canadian Poets Petting Cats: Christine McNair and Lemonade (Evan Munday)

10 Questions for Christine McNair (Cassie Leigh)

Christine McNair on feeling Conflicted (Jeremy Colangelo)

The Proust Questionnaire with Christine McNair (OpenBook Ontario)

12 or 20 questions with Christine McNair by rob mclennan

Interview by Kevin Spenst

Video interview by BookThug of Christine McNair.
(Slight awkwardness and unfortunate cardigan)


hush now, don’t explain

And so it goes.

Nouveau New Nuevo

Another year. I’ve been appallingly bad at updating this blog. It could be because of the wedding. But more likely it’s because I’ve been working more than ever this year with the full-time job, the part-time bookbinding work, and various other parceled portions of day-to-day that subsume. I’ve also tried updating the radio show archive several times over the past few months and it is resisting my files for some unknown reason. To be determined! It won’t let me add subtle links or photos either. WordPress wishes me silent? Husha!

Determination. My resolution for this year is to be resolved in all things. I’d like to read from Conflict (  across the Dominion. I’d like to visit some friends in the Maritimes that I haven’t seen in some time. I’d like to get my beautiful Improved Pearl press moving. I’ve begun playing with it but need to figure out how to work in my corner of a shared basement.

I’d like to find room in my head. If a person requires a room of their own then that’s where I need it. It’s more than physical space. My brain lacks barriers and time for contemplation.

I intend to be pyromorphic.

I’d like to become more active in supporting those around me. In the broader political human sense and the personal familial sense.

Thinking on the Idle No More movement and forwarding thusly this letter from CWILA (Canadian Women in Literary Arts) expressing support for Chief Spence and the Idle No More movement:

Robert Kroetsch (June 26, 1927 — June 21, 2011)

Salt, of Ocean Sea, of Tears

the forfeiture
of ending
to begin begin
& arch & heel

(excerpt from Field Notes.)