The Next Chapter

David Leonard reflects on his wife Teva Harrison's last book, Not One of These Poems Is About You

David Leonard, partner to the late writer and graphic artist, talks about her the 'clear directions' she left behind for the book.
Not One of These Poems Is About You is an illustrated poetry collection by Teva Harrison. (House of Anansi Press, David Leonard)
Listen3:49

Teva Harrison's poetry collection Not One of These Poems Is About You was published posthumously in January 2020.

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. The book won Harrison the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for nonfiction and it was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction.

(Teva Harrison/House of Anansi Press)

Not One of These Poems Is About You, a collection of poetry and artwork, is an extension of In-Between Days

Her husband, David Leonard, stopped by The Next Chapter to discuss how Harrison created her last book.

Finding space for creativity

"Teva was a deeply creative person in many ways. Her creativity took many forms. She spent a lot of her time thinking and writing about in-between spaces and liminal spaces. When she was dealing with the mundane details of living with cancer — hospital visits and waiting rooms and these sorts of places — there's lots of downtime. 

"In that downtime is a place where the mind can race. She always filled that downtime with creativity: drawing, writing and thinking."

Her first reader

"My role in Teva's creative process was always sort of on the outside. I was always her first reader. I was always a gutcheck for her on whether what she was putting into the world was something that she felt she could be proud of. 

"The general question I answered was always, 'Is this honest? Is this true?'"

A vision for the book

"She completed the book before she died. She left fairly clear directions for how she wanted this book to be. My role in the process after her death was to just carry the book forward. My hope for the book is a lot like Teva's hope for the book —  that people find a connection to it and people find community through it.

My hope for the book is a lot like Teva's hope for the book —  that people find a connection to it and people find community through it.

"She did so much work and she applied herself so well to putting her heart and soul into this book. For me, it's a challenge to be the one left behind.

"But it's also, I think, an honour in a way to help carry her message of love and kindness and gentleness forward."

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

David Leonard's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Corrections

  • Teva Harrison died at the age of 42 on April 28, 2019. The original article had an incorrect date.
    Apr 23, 2020 10:04 AM ET

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