Mrs Romanov

By (author): Lori Cayer

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


Lori Cayer

Lori Cayer is the author of three previous poetry collections, including Dopamine Blunder (Tightrope Books, 2016), Attenuations of Force (Frontenac House, 2010) and Stealing Mercury (The Muses’ Company, 2004). Her poetry is endlessly informed by her editorial work in scientific research publishing. She lives in Winnipeg.


`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


  • Raymond Souster Award 2019, Long-listed
  • Pat Lowther Memorial Award 2019, Long-listed
  • Manitoba Book Awards Lansdowne Prize for Poetry 2020, Short-listed
  • ReLit Awards, Poetry 2019, Short-listed
  • Excerpts & Samples ×

    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

    Reader Reviews



    128 Pages
    8.75in * 5.55in * .48in


    September 01, 2018


    Porcupine’s Quill



    Book Subjects:

    POETRY / Canadian

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