E. Alex Pierce is a Nova Scotia poet who published her first verse collection, Vox Humana (Brick, $19), in 2011. She is devoted to the arts — music, theatre, and photography. In her writing, she likes to revise canonical texts, according them a feminist edge.
Thus, her Ophelia keeps a journal, and writes of Amleth (Hamlet), “Black, he was so black. And I / could not stop near him. He / took, cut up my dress. … / Wasps / undressed me, laid me / down. It was a bramble thorn / that punctured every wound.”
Pierce’s approach recalls that of the late British author Angela Carter and her rewrites of fairy tales and adult literature to revivify their heroines, to give them their own authentic voices.
Thus, Pierce’s version of Puccini’s Cio-Cio San is no simple suicide. Instead, “Her sword has come for you.”
One of the strongest poems in this fine debut is My Jerusalem, a love poem with all the ferocity of Eros. But the tender lyrics are welcome too: “When I said I, I lost him. He — / offering the halved, tinged pear / against my mouth.”
George Elliott Clarke is a professor of literature at the University of Toronto.