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132 pages
Published:   May 1, 2000
Paperback:   9780864922946    $16.95

She is a complex novel in poetry and prose poetry, crafted with visual form and eloquent language. Penelope-Marie Lancet, an immigrant from Trinidad who lives in Calgary, yearns for a child to the point of obsession. She sees a child as her salvation. Her fervour results in a false pregnancy and in her denial she forms a belief that the child has been spirited away from her. As she formulates and executes a plan to retrieve her child, her personality fragments to the point of disintegration.

Penelope's fixation begins with a tragedy that occurred when she was a little girl: her one-year-old sister lurched out of her arms and plunged to her death. Penelope never forgives herself and searches constantly for the "lost" baby that would make her whole. Hearing of a black baby adopted by a rich white couple, she concludes that this is her "stolen" child, and she steals him back. Little by little, her already fragile self fragments into at least six personalities, all of whom call their outwardly more composed manifestation "She." Each of these personalities is unique, each speaking in their own voice and dialect. Dealing with differing levels of awareness of one another, the diverse personalities seek to find their purpose within the whole as they write letters to Penelope's sister Jasmine, who lives in Trinidad. The more frenzied the letters become, the more they worry Jasmine. By the time Jasmine knocks on the door of Penelope's Calgary apartment, the discord among Penelope's different personalities becomes unbearable and her psyche unravels completely.

She is a collage that cuts across conventional boundaries and creates a visual form of poetry and prose. Claire Harris has created a brilliant amalgam of character and creativity.
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Claire Harris (1937-2018) was a Canadian poet of Trinidadian background who produced eight collections of poems. Her first volume, Fables from the Women's Quarters (1984), won the Commonwealth Award for Poetry for the Americas Region. First released in 1992, Drawing Down a Daughter was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Poetry. Her work has been included in more than 70 anthologies and has been translated into German and Hindi.

Claire Harris was born in Trinidad, West Indies, studied at University College, Dublin, where she earned a BA Honours in English. She came to Canada in 1966 and settled in Calgary. In 1975, during a study leave in Nigeria, she first wrote for publication and was encouraged by Nigerian poet, J.P. Clark. She also earned a diploma in communications from the University of Lagos, Nigeria (1975). After returning to Canada, Harris became active in the literary community in Calgary working as poetry editor at Dandelion from 1981-1989 and helping to found the all-Alberta magazine, blue buffalo, in 1983. She taught grade nine English in Calgary's Separate School system for 28 years, influencing generations of young people.


"One of the best English-language poets in Canada today." — Dionne Brand

"From academic English to various Caribbean dialects and patois, from ragged prose to surgically precise and playful verse, Harris displays startling versatility in both voice and form. Ambitious and pulled off with heartbreaking flair, She is a virtuioso performance from a player who has earned her place in the spotlight." — Quill & Quire