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My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems

My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems

By Amber Dawn
Categories: Women's Literature, LGBTQ+, Lesbian Literature, Poetry
Paperback : 9781551527932, 128 pages, 2020


Finalist, Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes

In her novels, poetry, and prose, Amber Dawn has written eloquently on queer femme sexuality, individual and systemic trauma, and sex work justice, themes drawn from her own lived experience and revealed most notably in her award-winning memoir How Poetry Saved My Life.

In this, her second poetry collection, Amber Dawn takes stock of the costs of coming out on the page in a heartrendingly honest and intimate investigation of the toll that artmaking takes on artists. These long poems offer difficult truths within their intricate narratives that are alternately incendiary, tender, and rapturous.

In a cultural era when intersectional and marginalized writers are topping bestseller lists, Amber Dawn invites her readers to take an unflinching look at what we expect from writers, and from each other.

Includes a foreword by writer Doretta Lau.


  • Short-listed, Jim Deva Prize for Writing that Provokes (BC and Yukon Book Prizes) 2021


Amber Dawn's virtuosic, five-octave-range powerhouse My Art is Killing Me and Other Poems rang through me like a bell. I swear certain lines tolled inside me like they've always been there, waiting to be struck. This book lays bare the risk and reward of making art about trauma and the audacious possibility of healing in a world that feels like a burning house, moving from lyricism to cultural criticism to formal experimentation and back. I could smell this collection on me for weeks. -Domenica Martinello, author of All Day I Dream about Sirens

In her brilliant new collection, Amber Dawn documents, probes, and analyzes her own 'happily ever after' success story of a sex worker turned award-winning writer. As you (literally you) read this book, you are continually confronted with the question of who consumes sex worker experiences, to what end, and at what cost comes that consumption. 'We fail to see / nearby violence while we naively imagine distant violence,' Amber Dawn laments, and you don't need to look further for nearby violence than the polite world of institutional CanLit. When new traumas arise, Amber Dawn concocts new spells for healing in this book woven of magic, testament and prayer. These poems deftly slip among registers, languages, experiences, and traditions to tell a whole-hearted, full-bodied, and totally essential truth. -Sachiko Murakami, author of Get Me Out of Here

In gorgeous, incisive poems, Amber Dawn challenges us to rethink our closely held imaginations about sex, sex work, women, violence, and the making of art. This book is both an interrogation of the self as artist and an expose of the ways in which we are all complicit in the very systems we want to dismantle. Under the compassionate surgery of Amber Dawn's words, I felt like I was being remade. My Art is Killing Me should be required reading for everyone. -SJ Sindu, author of Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Urgent, necessary and powerful, these poems lay bare the hypocrisy of a society that demands truth then systematically destroys those who dare speak it. With lyric dexterity and stunning insight, Amber Dawn details the difficult trajectory of creating art from life while navigating institutions steeped in structural oppression. There's no overstating the value and importance of this book, a lifeline to survivors, a turning point, a reckoning. -Nancy Lee, author of The Age

Amber Dawn's poems are rituals of beauty, courage and fierce rage. -Vancouver Sun

Amber Dawn's sense of place and style is bewitching . .. This is a deeply personal collection that also offers a worthwhile opportunity for readers to evaluate themselves. -Quill and Quire

Poetry is visceral and expansive. And for readers of Amber Dawn, poetry is an act to speak your truth. Through the various expressions of her poetry, whether hiss or hymn, she names abuses of power in certain spaces and communities. By doing so, she shows us how poetry can witness us speaking out in myriad ways. -rabble. ca