by Nancy Jo Cullen
In her third collection of poems, Nancy Jo Cullen once again turns her questing and multidimensional mind to the nature of madness, addiction, impermanence and loss. This confessional collection takes an unflinching look at the path of a life’s destruction to create a harrowing chronicle of bereavement. As Zoe Whittall says, “Nancy Jo Cullen gets to the guts of grief, revealing its complexity with wit and poetic precision.”
In 2006 Nancy Jo Cullen’s life partner died after a long struggle with mental illness and addiction. Untitled Child examines the trajectory of the end of the marriage between the two women and the author tries to understand her role in a series of painful events.
The poems are confessional in the vein of poets such as Anne Sexton. Cullen tries to get inside the skin of the mess of what once appeared to be the perfectly suburban life. Untitled Child is part memoir, part rant and part lament as Cullen examines the rage, grief and surprise about the terrible havoc that addiction can reap on a life.
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Nancy Jo Cullen
Nancy Jo Cullen is a playwright, poet and fiction writer. Her plays The Waitresses (co-written with Anne Loree), Forever There and Gone Tomorrow (co-written with Rose Scollard) and Another Saturday Night have all been produced by Maenad Theatre in Calgary, of which she was a co-founder. She has published three poetry books with poetry books with Frontenac House: Science Fiction Saint which was shortlisted for three awards: Best Alberta Trade book, Best Alberta Poetry Book and The Gerald Lampert Award; Pearl (which won the Best Alberta Trade Book award) and Untitled Child.
She is a graduate of the University of Guelph Humber MFA program and is the 4th recipient of the Wrtiers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writer. Her fiction has appeared in The Puritan, Grain, filling station, Plenitude, Prairie Fire and This Magazine. Two of her short stories were included in The Journey Prize Anthology, in 2012 and in 2014. Her short story collection, Canary, is the winner of the 2012 Metcalf Rooke Award. Canary published by Biblioasis in 2013 was highly acclaimed by reviewers across Canada.
She is at work on a novel and another collection of short stories.
Nancy Jo Cullen’s Untitled Child pushes the linguistic possibilities of the post-modern lyric with intriguing and powerful results…the book gingerly avoids the standard pitfalls of maudlin self-pity and sensational confessionalism through clever deconstruction of its own narrative structure and musical/linguistic leaps of diction, register, tone and its side-of-the-mouth use of allusion. Critical language melds with lyric tropes, and droll delivery with understatement and the quick, deft cutaway. I wouldn’t say that Ms. Cullen is a language poet, but her work is informed as much by that post-modern set of stratagems as it is by imagism or high realism…She’s never totally abstract or abstruse and she never sacrifices the music to the matter-of-fact tone or droll delivery. Her poetry offers good clean fun, even when dealing with painful subject matter.”
– Richard Stevenson
“Reading Cullen’s poems is a little like drinking booze. Definitely not wine, because it’s not all that genteel, and not beer, because it’s not all that commonplace, but hard liquor because it’s edgy, fast-acting, more than a little disorienting and frequently mixed with something sweet…Cullen understands how we are entertained by our emotions, and this poetry is trained like a laser scope on our limbic systems.”
– Globe & Mail