Book cover: The Only Card in a Deck of Knives, by Lauren Turner

The Only Card in a Deck of Knives

Lauren Turner
  • $18.00

112 pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-09-1

The Only Card in a Deck of Knives is a groundbreaking new collection in the area of sickness poetry. Within these poems, Lauren Turner aims to reclaim the "hysterical" label given to sick women throughout history. Rather than shying away from the emotional urgency and raw vulnerability surrounding a terminal diagnosis, Turner shines an interrogative light upon it. These fierce poems are written from the perspective of a twentysomething female speaker with a terminal disease, a speaker who is preoccupied with maintaining the illusion of health, but then refers to herself as "dying" in the next line. Fascinated and repelled by the societal impulse to gussy up diseases that take violent, and sometimes deadly, tolls upon women’s bodies, Turner uses these lyric poems to juxtapose the violence of a gendered illness with the violence encountered by women and non-binary people in society. The Only Card in a Deck of Knives unpacks society’s impulse to pull away from sick women and examines why we discredit their professed pain, symptoms and emotions.

Advance Praise

“An exquisitely feral ballet, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives burrows into the belly of poetry, its guts and blood. Lauren Turner expertly orchestrates swift melodies out of fables, cocktail hours and illness to counter the magical beast that is the literary life, its toxic lore, power dynamics and embodied sacrifices. Never have I witnessed anyone wield our shared illusions and realities with such earned purpose and defiant precision. Here is a new mythology that may topple the towers that loom darkly over our lives and art.” – Adèle Barclay, author of Renaissance Normcore and If I Were in a Cage I’d Reach Out for You

“‘A disease can’t be equated to an abuser,’ acknowledges Turner, and yet: ‘on my worst days, I recollect my early 20s and hypothesize that I poisoned my body with bad men.’ Written with the fearlessness, ferocity and dark humour of a survivor, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives is a powerful hybrid collection about blooms and rot, youth and death, and the marks that abuse and illness leave on a life.” – Amy Berkowitz, author of Tender Points

“This sensational, defiant debut holds the complexity of trauma, sickness and care with caution and intelligence, velveteen and latticework. ‘There’s no origin myth, only women / split open like pulpy peach,’ and ‘Blame is so reductionist,’ Turner writes. With insight and wit, she looks you in the eye to say, ‘If that analogy angers you, it was intended to.’ Each page is equal parts song and dance, written in skillful language that reminds us ‘curtains don’t open, they expose.’” – Tess Liem, author of Obits


The Only Card In A Deck Of Knives By Lauren Turner (Chris Banks, the Miramichi Reader, 03/09/2020)
"A wealth of forms, a tool-box of well-tailored images and lines, and an emotional authenticity that can only be generated by turning a microscope on one's lived experience. I can't recommend this book enough."

The Only Card in a Deck of Knives (Eileen Mary Holowka, Contemporary Verse 2, 26/08/2020)
“These poems fight for life with brutal honesty and, at a time when so many are being careless with the lives of themselves or others, these are perhaps exactly the words we need.”

Lauren Turner, The Only Card in a Deck of Knives (rob mclennan, rob mclennan's blog, 09/08/2020)
"Her lyric narratives are powerful, engaged and self-aware. Imagine a lyrically-dense craft blending elements comparable to those of Lynn Crosbie and Stephanie Bolster writing on love, loss, endurance and terminal illness."

Poetry (Rachel McCrum, Montreal Review of Books, Summer 2020)
"This is a book that is unnerving and unsettling in the questions it poses and deeply satisfying in the skill and discipline with which the poet sustains her interrogations, both of those who have exerted their own agency over her history, and of her own sense of self."


Poetry in Motion: Lauren Turner (All Lit Up, 06/08/2020)
"Music is the perfect tool for manipulating my own emotions, or conjuring up a memory, to put me in the desired headspace to write a particular poem."


Most Anticipated: Spring 2020 Poetry Preview (49th Shelf, 06/02/2020)
Lauren's collection makes the list of the 49th Shelf's Most Anticipated Spring Poetry.

About the Author

Lauren Turner is a disabled poet and essayist, who wrote the chapbook, We're Not Going to Do Better Next Time (knife | fork | book, 2018). Her work has appeared in Grain, Arc Magazine, Poetry is Dead, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Puritan, canthius and elsewhere. She won the 2018 Short Grain Contest and was a finalist for the 2017 3Macs carte blanche Prize. She lives in Tiohtiá:ke/Montréal on the unceded land of the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation.

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