A hotel maid is visited by the Holy Spirit, an ex child star finds temporary solace in a baby-dreaded rent boy, and an assortment of drifters, wastrels and lost girls seek transcendance and good times in the alternate universe that is Wayward. Part autobiographical exorcism, part analysis of the myth of the fallen woman, Wayward brings a haunting and unexpected perspective to being “on the road.”
Shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Award
Wayward, poems by Ali Riley and illustrations by Meghan Hildebrand, is a trip along the drift, on the road and on the streets, you won’t soon forget. Told from the disad/vantage point of the lost girls: the runaways, the prostitutes, the missing, and the murdered women, Riley takes the readers outside zones of comfort and complacency.
Ali Riley is a welcome new voice in Canadian poetry. Wayward is very raw, very lively, very emotionally provocative. It deals with young womanhood with a real raw integrity.
A remarkable excursion into the perilous realities of “lost girls” trekking through a landscape of rudderless fellow-travellers and banal predators. The sheer grace, confidence, and agility of Wayward is a feat in itself, emotionally affecting precisely because of its unsparing, unsentimental and unflinching approach… Wayward is bound to become a well-worn and dog-eared denizen of a true poetry lover’s bookshelf.
Riley doesn’t leave us tossing in lyric storms, but likes a quietly cadenced ending, as if she wants to walk us through hell only to prove that with the right guide, you can get through it.
Riley’s poems dissect the pain of female adolescence and show the ways this pain is acted out.
Riley’s vibrant writing illustrates the often alarming situations faced by girls satisfying an itch to escape. The effect is disturbing and intense.
The writing itself is lively, punchy — like the lyrics of the Patti Smith or Lou Reed songs the poet admires and alludes to… Indeed, Riley is capable of the bon mot, terse expression, pastiche, droll, sloe-eyed delivery.
Once in a while a writer returns from the serrated edge of human experience with accounts so accomplished in language and craft that she or he wins an audience eager to listen to tales of the dark places of the human soul, of the bleak and fearful locales at the margins of our civilization. Ali Riley is one such writer and the poems of Wayward will quickly convince you. A word of warning. Make sure your personal safety devices are locked and loaded. Ali Riley is about to be your guide on a voyage to destinations you will wish never existed. I can promise you, however, that her consummate mastery of words will ensure you thoroughly enjoy the trip.
Ali Riley’s writing manages to be spare yet baroque, cutting yet caressing, a wedding and a funeral; it is life as it is meant to be lived: full on into the light with an ever present awareness of the nearby darkness. Read her and be the richer for it.
About the Author
Ali Riley’s first book, Wayward, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She was born in Calgary, and was the singer/songwriter of the seminal psycho-country band Sacred Heart of Elvis. In Toronto, she acted in several theatre productions, including The Lorca Play, for which the company won a Dora Mavor Moore award for best performance by a female. Her produced plays include dog dream, Philosophy in the Bedroom and Hole in my Heart the Size of My Heart. Her poetry has appeared in Geist, The nth Position Anthology, Matrix, This Magazine, Event and theMoosehead Review, and she has performed at festivals, schools, and hootennannies across the country. She currently lives on a farm between Nanton and Vulcan, Alberta.