Books·First Look

Read an excerpt from Teva Harrison's poetry collection, Not One of These Poems Is About You

The Toronto comic creator died at the age of 42 on April 28, 2019. Her comics and poetry explored living with metastatic breast cancer.
Not One of These Poems Is About You is an illustrated poetry collection by Teva Harrison. (House of Anansi Press, David Leonard)

Tevas Harrison's poetry collection, Not One of These Poems Is About You, is now available.

The Toronto comic creator died at the age of 42 on April 28, 2019.

She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, an incurable illness, at 37.

Harrison began publishing short comics about her declining health and facing the end of her life in the Walrus. These comics were collected in the graphic memoir In-Between Days.

In-Between Days examined how her diagnosis reshaped her life — from socializing at parties and feeling the uncomfortable gaze of others, to navigating the western medical system.

"In the beginning I was just drawing for myself. It was about having the thoughts and clarifying them by bringing them out in the open," said Harrison to CBC Books in 2016.

"Humour is an excellent coping mechanism when you're sick. You have to be able to laugh at things. But the first comics were more about dark places. I started from darker places and then started to find more and more and more absurdity."

The visual artist talks about her graphic memoir of living with incurable cancer. 15:06

Not One of These Poems Is About You is an extension of In-Between Days

"[Not One of These Poems Is About You] is, at its core, a book of goodbyes, a thoughtful and determined leave-taking," the book's editor, Meaghan Strimas, said in an email to CBC Books.

"In its pages, Teva says goodbye to the person she was pre-diagnosis, to the world she experienced so deeply and revered so dearly, to her husband, David, to her friends and her family and — not least of all — to her readers."

You can read the poem Deliver This Day from Not One of These Poems Is About You below.


Deliver This Day

(Teva Harrison/House of Anansi Press)

This day,
ensconced in crystal paradox,
swept under by stale paradigm.

This day,
it glows before me,
welcome yet hesitant.

Or
I shine dully before it,
hesitating in wonder and trepidation.

Or
I step in
fearless only because I have no choice.

Choice choice choice:
a toxic fallacy.

Choice has a dangerous tendency
to trust without knowing.

Knowing without trust, though,
is a sinking feeling in my centre.

This day,
it shimmers with possibility
and seductive danger.

This day,
I am stripped bare,
reduced to abject solitude.

I face myself and the eyes that return my stare
are hollow and they are tired.

This day,
weighted and daunting,
yet pulsing luminescence.

Deliver the promise of this day.

Excerpted from Not One of These Poems Is About You by Teva Harrison. Copyright © 2020 Teva Harrison. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press Inc., Toronto. All rights reserved. www.houseofanansi.com

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story stated Teva Harrison died on April 27, 2019. She died on April 28, 2019.
    Jan 08, 2020 9:28 AM ET

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