Mrs Romanov

By Lori Cayer

Mrs Romanov
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Lori Cayer's poetry collection Mrs Romanov reveals the unexpectedly quotidian concerns of Alexandra Feodorovna, the last tsarina of Imperial Russia.


Lori Cayer's poetry collection Mrs Romanov reveals the unexpectedly quotidian concerns of Alexandra Feodorovna, the last tsarina of Imperial Russia.

Lori Cayer

Born in Saskatchewan, Lori Cayer has made Manitoba her home since the third grade. She is the author of four volumes of poetry: Mrs Romanov (The Porcupine's Quill, 2017) Dopamine Blunder (Tightrope Books, 2016), Attenuations of Force (Frontenac House, 2010) and Stealing Mercury (The Muses' Company, 2004), which won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book in Manitoba in 2004. In 2005 Lori won the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. She is co-founder of the Lansdowne Prize for Poetry/Prix Lansdowne de poésie, part of the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards. By day Lori is a virtual editorial assistant for two scientific research journals.


Show your own mind, and don't let others forget who you are

is it wrong that I feel a secret shame for my husband?
I can't bear to watch him, a fish on the sand

his father's men who use him for their own affairs
he inhales his rage with constant cigarettes

bends a hundred times a day
to the will of the one with whom he last spoke

twelve hours a day they bury him in paperwork
he diligently reads and signs every document

from banal approvals of Easter egg gifts for staff
to kill orders and death sentences

is it love or my own nature that spurs me on?
husband of capitulation, husband of avoidant ways

I apply myself to him as a poultice of pressure
describe a fist, a voice, push him out the door

inside and out I see all are displeased with him
he aligns his pencils

stubborn like an abandoned old rail car
he is pushed squealing or he is frozen in place

I tell God I fear I have married not an emperor
but a man in his ordinary cloak of skin

When dawn opens like a sash, a moment of blank

I recall all that has happened in painful cascade
long lists of unjust acts, and we

still imprisoned
tedious fabric of our humiliated lives

my blood runs cold as if Ive been sitting in dirt
entire days have gone abject, how much worse

our remaining riches smuggled this far
enough jewels left to buy a quite exile

our ten soft hands sewing for months
collateral stitched between the bones of our corsets

into belts and hat bands, seams and false buttons
ready to move, empty handed, at a moment's notice

familiar handwork for confiscated days
bright bands of soreness to adorn our ribs


`While history has much to say about Alexandra Feodorovna, her turbulent life and abundant failures, Cayer delivers a compassionate and fully-embodied Alexandra, her voice at once intimate, demanding, petulant and loving. Informed by themes of gender, marriage, motherhood, and power, Mrs Romanov is a generous portrait of a woman both formed by and constrained within the flawed construct of European aristocracy near the end of the Victorian era-a most compelling read. '

Jody Baltessen

`A compelling exercise in poetic biographical fiction, the series of nearly a hundred poems succeeds in creating a character out of a myth, in carving a human out of a mountain called Empress, while still maintaining a tantalizing distance between reader and subject. Though the porous beauty of this intricately woven narrative of the life of Alexandra Feodorovna occasionally finds itself in danger of being weighed down by the heft of the story Cayer has to tell, she always manages to steer her self-indulgent narrator back into realms of (relative) accessibility. The result is a domestic-epic of refreshingly delicate, sparse proportions. '

Chelsea Peters

`Cayer juxtaposes her characters' richly textured private lives with rising social unrest, political struggle, and ravening gossipmongers. She captures the delicate balance of the Romanovs' Inside and Outside Worlds and the fragility of their highly scrutinized lives through the motif of Fabergé eggs, ``those bejewelled manifestations of us / . .. / arrayed on the mantel. '' '

Heather Olaveson

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