Sonnet L’Abbé, daughter of a Guyanese visual artist of South Asian descent, and a Franco-Ontarian potter, won the Bronwen Wallace Memorial Award in 2000 for most promising writer under the age of 35. She has lived in Alberta, Manitoba, and Southwestern Ontario,and now lives in Toronto. L’Abbé earned a BFA in film and video at York University in Toronto, and a masters degree in English literature at the University of Guelph. Her work has appeared in a number of literary journals a several anthologies including Red Silk: An Anthology of South Asian Canadian Women Poets, and Open Field: 30 Canadian Poets.
Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2007.
PS8573 .A26 K54 2007
With its razzle-dazzle wordplay and kaleidoscope of subjects, Sonnet L’Abbé’s second collection of poems is a tour-de-force. L’Abbé invents her own unique poetics, coupling a glittering variety of patterns with tumbling rhythms and rhymes. And with this refreshed language, she reconsiders all the rules for twenty-first-century life. The poems work like a whirlwind, ranging from the intimacy of infancy to the shock of whole civilizations razed by war, and are infused with a political undertone that reveals a child’s emerging understanding of identity, of specific citizenship, of bodies physical and psychological, of language, imagination, and dream. Whether funny or funky, candid or subtle, amused and ironic or stunned in fright, the poems are guided by a fierce intelligence that never oversimplifies the world. Killarnoe, the poet tells us, “is a place I invented right now. I just built it from my head.” And in its reconsideration of what it means to be, Killarnoe is fascinating, charged, and inspired.
Sonnet’s Shakespeare: Poems
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2019.
e-book (Access restricted to members of the university community)
Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)
How can poetry grapple with how some cultures assume the place of others? How can English-speaking writers use the English language to challenge the legacy of colonial literary values? In Sonnet’s Shakespeare, one young, half-dougla (mixed South Asian and Black) poet tries to use “the master’s tools” on the Bard’s “house,” attempting to dismantle his monumental place in her pysche and in the poetic canon.
In a defiant act of literary patricide and a feat of painstaking poetic labour, Sonnet L’Abbé works with the pages of Shakespeare’s sonnets as a space she will inhabit, as a place of power she will occupy. Letter by letter, she sits her own language down into the white spaces of Shakespeare’s poems, until she overwhelms the original text and effectively erases Shakespeare’s voice by subsuming his words into hers. In each of the 154 dense new poems of Sonnet’s Shakespeare sits one “aggrocultured” Shakespearean sonnet–displaced, spoken over, but never entirely silenced.
A Strange Relief: Poems
Toronto: M&S, 2001.
PS8573 .A26 S77 2001
Publisher’s Synopsis (From its website)
The dazzling grace of A Strange Relief marks the debut of a singular young poet, Sonnet L’Abbé. In her delicately architected, but toughly envisioned poems, L’Abbé surveys the world and finds it both beautiful and unjust. She portrays that complex world with luxurious rhythms and a vocabulary that invites us to marvel at language’s infinite possibilities. Whether she is writing about living in Korea in “Cheju Diary,” or about the Aral Sea in “Nomads,” she shows a keen sensitivity that can at once bear witness to the experience of the cultural outsider while vividly imagining the internal struggles of people whose stories are rarely heard within our borders. But these poems, which span the earth, are also literally about shaping that earth. A Strange Relief is very much about making: making who we are, how we live, and also about making poetry itself. L’Abbé’s lyric sequences play on the ear with formal measures and headstrong lines that reinforce her thrillingly varied, but interconnected themes of politics, geography, and love.