Lynn Crosbie’s harrowing poems provoke questions

On Thursday, Feb. 26, York’s Canadian Writers in Person course and reading series presented cultural critic, poet and novelist Lynn Crosbie.

As he listened to Crosbie read selections from her latest book, says series organizer John Unrau, Atkinson professor of English, “I found her chilling evocations comparable in many respects to those of the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky.” Unrau sent the following report of the evening event to YFile.

 Left: Lynn Crosbie (photo by James Pattyn)

The ninth reading in this season’s Canadian Writers in Person series was given by Lynn Crosbie. Her new book of poems, Missing Children (McClelland and Stewart, 2003), is a harrowing story narrated by a man who enjoys torturing the parents of young girls who have been murdered or abducted. On the anniversary of the child’s death or disappearance, this monster writes the parents, saying he knows details about the case and that he’ll write again – which he never does. By the end of the book he is on the verge of abducting a young hitchhiker himself.

Crosbie read from several of the most gripping poems in her book, and then answered questions from the audience. People were especially interested in asking what drew her into putting herself imaginatively in the place of a male psychopath and attempting to write from his point of view; an earlier book of hers, Paul’s Case (1997), consists of imaginary letters written to convicted killer Paul Bernardo. Crosbie replied that she feels compelled to try to understand and share her understanding of such criminals, in part because this understanding may help in identifying and preventing the danger they pose.

Conversations with individual members of the audience and book-signing followed the question period. This was a reading that will stay in the memory of many for a long time.

More about Lynn Crosbie

Crosbie received a PhD from the University of Toronto on the subject of the poetry of Anne Sexton. Crosbie has published six collections of poetry, including Missing Children (2003), Miss Pamela’s Mercy (1992), VillainElle (1994), Pearl (1996, shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award), Queen Rat: New and Selected Poems (1998) and Phoebe 2002: An Essay in Verse (2003, with Jeffery Conway and David Trinidad ). In addition to her novel, Paul’s Case: The Kingston Letters, Crosbie has written Dorothy L’Amour (1999), and is the editor of two volumes of feminist writing, The Girl Wants To and Click: Becoming Feminists.

The Canadian Writers in Person series of public readings at York, which is free and open to the public, is also part of an introductory course on Canadian literature.