By (author): Francine Cunningham

Francine Cunningham lives with constant reminders that she doesn’t fit the desired expectations of the world: she is a white-passing, city-raised Indigenous woman with mental illness who has lost her mother. In her debut poetry collection on/me, Cunningham explores, with keen attention and poise, what it means to be forced to exist within the margins. Cunningham does not hold back: she holds a lens to residential schools, intergenerational trauma, Indigenous Peoples forcibly sent to sanatoriums, systemic racism and mental illness, and translates these topics into lived experiences that are nuanced, emotional, funny and heartbreaking all at once. on/me is an encyclopedia of Cunningham, who shares some of her most sacred moments with the hope to spark a conversation that needs to be had.


Francine Cunningham

Francine Cunninghamis an award-winning writer, artist, and educator who spends her summer days writing on the Prairies and her winter months teaching in the north. Francine is a member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta but grew up in Calgary, Edmonton, and 100 Mile House, BC. Francine is also Metis and has settler family roots stretching from as far away as Ireland and Belgium. She currently resides in Alberta and previously spent over a decade calling Vancouver her home.

Her debut book of poems On/Me (Caitlin Press) was nominated for The BC and Yukon Book Prize, The Indigenous Voices Award, and The Vancouver Book Award. Her debut book of short stories God Isn’t Here Today (Invisible Publishing) was longlisted for the inaugural Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. Francine also writes for television with credits including the teen reality show THAT’S AWSM! among others and was a recipient of a Telus StoryHive grant. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have also appeared in The Best Canadian Short Stories, The Best Canadian Non-Fiction, in Grain Magazine as the 2018 Short Prose Award winner, on The Malahat Review’s Far Horizons Prose shortlist, and on the 2022 CBC Poetry Prize longlist, among others.

You can find out more about her at www.francinecunningham.ca.


“Although stark, the poems also display a wry sense of humour […] Engaging, expressive, and explosive poems.”

—Jonathan Ball, Winnipeg Free Press

“Despite being small, on/me takes some time to chew and digest. Cunningham has an intuitive knack for making a single image almost endlessly expansive. Even if a reader has processed the words on the page, the world the poet has constructed linger vividly in the reader’s mind.”


“Potent artistry, redolent with the beauty and bitterness of everyday life: each poem draws you in—compels you on to the next, yet you linger. Every page a chef-d’oeuvre—katawasisin!”

—Darrel McLeod, author of Governor General award-winning memoir Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age

“In this collection, Francine Cunningham’s crisp and gorgeous poems take on so much of what it is to be a person: to consider the meaning of family, to experience grief, to live with mental illness, to eat KFC, to tease and to laugh. With pitch-perfect details, these poems get personal and emotionally universal, and show us how humour and love are the things that hold us together. These poems hold stories that need to be told.”

—Dina Del Bucchia, author of It’s a Big Deal!

“Cunningham doesn’t pull her punches, but they are quick, stinging hits, capturing difficult realities, the in-between worlds of belonging and not, of bearing the assumptions that make us a part of a group or alone. The dangerous smoulder of her mind is masterfully harnessed to clarity, illuminating pain and turbulence without being tragic.”

–Eden Robinson, author of Trickster Drift

“Francine Cunningham’s On/Me is a generous and arresting meditation on mental health, urban Indigeneity, and mixed-blood identity. These poems deftly explore contemporary conversations while remaining rooted in ancestral knowledge. Make no mistake, this is a song of resilience.”

—Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings


  • Jim Deva Prize for Writing That Provokes, BC and Yukon Book Prizes 2020, Short-listed
  • City of Vancouver Book Award 2020, Runner-up
  • Indigenous Voices Awards u2013 Published Poetry 2020, Runner-up
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    Reader Reviews



    96 Pages
    8.00in * 5.50in * .25in


    October 18, 2019


    Caitlin Press



    Book Subjects:

    POETRY / Canadian

    Featured In:

    Books on Mental Health



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