Read With Pride: Six Books for Pride Month

June 1, 2021 by Conyer Clayton

Poet and editor Conyer Clayton—whose debut collection We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (Guernica Editions) was named a finalist for the 2021 ReLit Award for Poetry—shares some of her favourite books by queer and trans writers and those reflecting on queer experiences for Pride Month. Read on for six choice titles from Conyer, including some stand-out excerpts from each.


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Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi
(Arsenal Pulp Press)  

I am not exaggerating when I say that this novel made me weep. When I closed the book, I sat in my chair and cried for a solid 10 minutes. The book follows three Nigerian women; two twins and their mother. Ekwuyasi simultaneously crafts a magical world where communication between the living and dead becomes standard, and one grounded in tumultuous relationships, homes, loss, coping, food, and growth, in a way that feels seamless. I felt so connected to every character in all their flaws and mistakes and humanity. Ekwuyasi is a master of pacing — this book made me want to keep moving through it at the expense of all else. I cannot recommend a novel more highly. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!


Conyer's favourite lines: 

"But then a bad thing happened when we were still small, and the plan changed. What I mean is that I changed the plan. I peeled myself away from her rather savagely. One of the multitudes of things I regret.

Our relationship has always struggled against our twinness. 'Resentment' is too sharp a word—it's just so unforgiving—but not long after we turned twelve something close to it stained and spread between us, like ink on wet paper"

"It's not very difficult to spot a hardened person. Thickening one's proverbial skin can only be a natural response to the causticity that life sometimes visits upon us. But there is a unique type of hardness, a single-minded drive to thrive through whatever the fuck, to tear through whoever, to get what you want, that levels everything so that nothing is sacred. Someone else might call it sharp, masculine, capable of getting it done. But I knew Toki when we were children, and if you ask me, something happened between then and now that took some light away from him. Perhaps it's just what happens when we grow up. Could he look at me and come to the same conclusion?"


Available here on All Lit Up







The Pit by Tara Borin
(Nightwood Editions) 

I will admit, as a now-sober person, I was a little tentative as I opened The Pit. It is, after all, all about a bar by that name in the Yukon. I was concerned it would either glorify alcohol abuse, or alternatively, demonize addiction, two tropes I find all too common. Much to my absolute delight, Borin does neither of these things, and instead navigates these waters with sensitivity, honesty, and a focus on the profoundly human and flawed. The Pit pulled me in deeper and deeper as I read. I became a regular, like I knew the cast of characters and the scenery, and by the end of the book, it felt all too familiar and grimly comforting.


Conyer's favourite lines: 

"We drink without even having to think about it, / because it feels good / to lose control, / feels like regaining it." (from "Reasons," p.42)

"He gets sober, / takes them fishing for grayling, // gets drunks, / falls down the stairs. // They learn nothing lasts. // He wants them to take over / someday, believes it to be a gift, // but they know better. // They dream / of lighting a match, // and not even staying / to watch it burn." (from "Pit Kid," p.56)


Available here on All Lit Up.  




i can hear you

I Can Hear You, Can You Hear Me by Nolan Natasha 
(Invisible Publishing) 


This is a book, which after reading and reviewing for Canthius, I have returned to many times for its softness. Natasha's book expertly crafts tenderness without becoming saccharine. These poems live in the gentle pull of memory and time, continually moving back and forth, between childhood and lovers and transitioning and recognition and loss and change, all while giving the reader an incredible amount of space to let the poems wash over them.


Conyer's favourite lines: 

"I meet expectations now and am lost in the trees. / If there are words / for what this feels like exactly, I don't know them." (from "A boat sitting in the forest," p.14)

"The man I have become, / the girl I was    long ago    jumping from the swing set / landing with both feet in the gravel     firm. / I was really there, / a kind of knowing. / You make it feel like that again, / easy to trust what is plain. We are who we are, / mountains hold powers, and the geese are beautiful." (from "Women's studies," p.16)


Available here on All Lit Up.






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Where Things Touch: A Meditation on Beauty by Bahar Orang
(Book*hug Press)

This book is a breath-taking hybrid work, moving between essay and prose poetry and lyric without a hitch. It is, as the title states, a meditation on beauty, both what it is, but also how we consume it, what we expect from it, and how it operates, or doesn't, within our lives. The thing I love most about this book is how it resists conclusiveness and prescription. Orang reflects on beauty within the medical profession, queer relationships, family, home, writing, and the day-to-day in a way that links and clarifies and truly stuns.


Conyer's favourite lines:

"Whatever beauty is, I know it has little to do with origins or symmetry. But something here still rings true: it's the ear in longing, I think, but longing is just our word for knowing­—knowing what? Knowing that it's all happening together at the same time: the return home, the release from home, the home-note as the only note played again and again" (p. 39)

"Maybe, then, beauty is where language fails, where language must give itself over to something else, to an embodiment that cannot be held by a slim treatise of words. But are beauty's whereabouts beauty itself? If I have led you to the place of beauty, is it meaning enough?" (p.56)

Available here on All Lit Up







Murmurations by Annick MacAskill
(Gaspereau Press) 

Early in Murmurations, the speaker says they are learning to birdwatch, as they had resisted as a child, and how lucky we are as readers that they do! Through the rest of the collection, magpies, starlings, gulls, falcons, geese, and crows, alongside many other animals and landscapes, serve as emblems of moments captured and vehicles for experience and emotion. This book has a smoothness to it that feels like gliding vast distances on a calm expanse of air. Any book made by Gaspereau Press is a beautiful object to hold in your hands. They make books you want to own, not borrow!

Conyer's favourite lines:

"The universe gets a little heavy-handed / when you're around—the Bow still green // all these kilometres down river. Two geese / and their tuft of fledgling: // proof that the universe was once the size of a gumball. / Time is a rubber band, we joke. Nothing // like looking over and seeing you driving." (from "Holocene," p.54)

"Orange-pink on the snow-tipped mountains, / morning floats over the trick of forest, / spills like yellow headlights unto the valley's split pelvis. // If the world will not miss us, we will not miss it either—" (from "Conference Centre," p.46)


Available here on All Lit Up.







Cephalopography 2.0 by Rasiqra Revulva
(Wolsak and Wynn)

I had such a blast reading and interacting with this book. It is a book that asks you to engage beyond the normal scale, through crosswords, fill in the blanks, seek and finds, and more. Even in the poems that did not overtly ask for my participation, I found myself drawing, writing, adding to the page. Cephalopography 2.0 uses stunning visual poetry and art to create a world you'll be eager to dive into.

Conyer's favourite lines:

"severed contact lenses drifting in the wrong prescription; / an octopus in captivity exhibits stress by eating its own arms." (from "Vulgaris," p.33)

"the rigours of my youth grow frostier with time / yet even as the larval memory fades, / i delineate my daily thanks: / "our home is paean to the Sacred, and the Known." // and surveying the grounds, is this not so? / each grain of sand glistens with echoing / exuvial mysticism, weeping / through the pores of our lifeless coral throne." (from "Night of Power," p.55)


Available here on All Lit Up




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Hasi Photo Edit

Conyer Clayton is a gymnastics coach, editor, musician, and author of many chapbooks; most recently, Towers (Collusion Books, Spring 2021) by VII, of which she is a member. Her debut full-length collection, We Shed Our Skin Like Dynamite (2020, Guernica Editions), was a finalist for the 2021 Relit Award for Poetry.











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