USEREVIEW 024 (Capsule): The Only Card in a Deck of Knives

Jade Wallace/ March 17, 2021/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Lauren Turner
The Only Card in a Deck of Knives (Wolsak & Wynn, 2020)
ISBN 978-1-989496091 | 112 pp | $20 CAD


It is common enough to find a novel that clasps you by the hand, Nimue-like, draws you into its realm and will not let you leave; far rarer is the debut poetry collection that does this. Yet Lauren Turner’s The Only Card in a Deck of Knives (Wolsak & Wynn, 2020) manages it. Looped through with a dizzying range of cultural referents — the mythological Merlin and Vivien, the historical Ana Mendieta, the anthropological bog body of the Yde Girl, and more — the poems circle the themes that centre them. Illness with its mundane violence of pain and mortality, gender with its complex machinations of desire and power. At the same time, across and beneath and through all of these sharp realities, there is also care. Friends, lovers, others emerge from these poems as figures not of salvation but of sanctum nonetheless. Though it doesn’t really dabble in form poetry, the book takes these fine layers of intellectual, cultural and emotional sediment and carves them into stones whose shapes feel singularly suited to their subjects.

Recommended excerpt:

You really can’t go wrong with any of them, but why not try “I Want to Get Married Before I Start Losing My Organs.”

Jade Wallace is the Reviews Editor for CAROUSEL. More:

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