Concisely arresting and challenging the beliefs of family and the fantasies of tradition, the poems in Surviving Home show that home is a place that you endure rather than a place where you are nurtured. With unyielding cadence and unparalleled sadness and warmth, Katerina Canyon contemplates the prejudice and limitations buried in a person’s African American heritage: parents that seem to care for you with one hand and slap you with the other, the secret desires to be released from the daily burdens of life, as well as the surprising ways a child chooses to amuse herself. Finding resilience in the unexpected, this collection tears down the delicate facades of family.
Thoughts and Themes: I’ve been reading quite a bit of poetry lately so I was glad to get a chance to read this book. Each of these poems is filled with so much emotion and there were so many poems that I really enjoyed. So many of these poems captured the author’s love for their parents while also feeling betrayed by them, and expressing how those mixed emotions shaped her childhood and upbringing. There were two poems that really stood out to me and those were “My pain is sculpted into art for you to consume” and “I left out “bells and whistles” written with a little help from Webster’s dictionary”. I found that these two poems were really powerful pieces and a great addition to her story.
Writing Style: I like that Canyon used poetry to express her feelings about a lot of things from her childhood and what being Black means to her now and what it meant to her then. I like that while we are hearing about her childhood at no time do you believe that this could be told from a child’s perspective but it is rather an adult writing from painful memories. I really liked how this went from early years to later years and it took you through those moments in a chronological order. I think while each poem elicits different emotions and is a roller coaster ride, the story is tied together well.
Katerina Canyon is an Award Winning Poet, Best Selling Author, civil rights activist, essayist, and poet. She grew up in Los Angeles and much of her writing reflects that experience.
Her first book of poetry, Changing the Lines, was released in August 2017. This work is a conversation between mother and daughter as they examine what it means to operate within the world as black women.
Katerina Canyon is a 2020 and 2019 Pushcart Prize Nominee. Her stories have been published in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and Folks. Her poetry has been published in CatheXis Northwest, The Esthetic Apostle, Into the Void, Black Napkin, and Waxing & Waning. From 2000 to 2003, she served as the Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. During that time, she started a poetry festival and ran several poetry readings. She has a B.A. in English, International Studies and Creative Writing from Saint Louis University and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.
Katerina moved to Seattle three years ago. She is currently running a civil rights campaign against police brutality. More information can be found at www.vdaycampaign.org.