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Review of Look At Her in Biz X! And other reviews and thoughts…

Slowly but surely, the reviews and write-ups for Look At Her are flowing in!


Here is the most recent from local magazine Biz X. Review by Marlene Markham-Gay


And, in case you’re wondering what others are saying…here are some other links and thoughts…

“You are an amazing woman.  Brave poetry.  I now think of Sharon Olds, Molly Peacock, and Vanessa Shields when I think of brave celebratory poetry that OWNS the female body entire and celebrates the feminine in poetry that is fresh, sassy, courageous and I say, “it’s about time!”  too.  You are breaking new ground here with your voice.  Well done.  I laughed and I shouted out loud, Good for you, well done!” – John B. Lee, award-winning poet


“With Look At Her, Vanessa Shields rightfully holds her place as a Canadian poet to watch. Fiercely honest, tender, and wrenching, Shields treads into the secrets that so many of us would prefer to keep to ourselves. Unapologetic and unforgettable, Shields’ voice can’t be ignored.” – Liz Worth, author of No Work Finished Here: Rewriting Andy WarholAmphetamine Heart, and The Truth Is Told Better This Way


In her latest collection of poetry, Look At Her, Vanessa Shields writes: “This is life in lived-in skin”. Truly, this is a collection of words from a lived-in heart and soul, ready to be consumed by lovers of language and imagery, and of the truths we shy away from and hide. Shields is a powerful poet, and she turns herself inside out to find and share the power inherent in each of the roles she embodies – writer, wife, mother, daughter… the list goes on. While many say – and there’s truth to this – that Shields writes for women… there is humanity in her work that is genderless. Her analysis of motherhood brings fatherhood into clear focus. Her exploration of ‘wife’ provides glimpses into ‘husband’. This work is about who we have all been, are, and may someday be. Shields invites you to ‘look at her’. Accept the invitation. But don’t be surprised to find yourself staring in a mirror.   –  Christopher Lawrence Menard, writer of ‘Whatever It Was’ and the DRAG Trilogy


“[The launch] was such a unique and memorable performance! Vanessa is more than talented. She spoke of ancient woman and modern woman all threaded so elegantly with the lovely jazz! Her poems will resound in my thoughts and dreams for a very long time, maybe forever.” Holly Wolter, painter
In Look at Her, Vanessa Shields tells us “ to say it like the sun. Be the sun.”
She tells us, in these powerful poems about doing kegels at Starbucks, about birthday sex and new bras, about double chins.
In, After a Phone Call with my Mother, she writes, “ I’m afraid of my rage./It connects me with my mother.”
These are powerful poems of pain and hope. Read them. You will be changed. You will be the sun. – Wendy Morton, Founder of Random Acts of Poetry, Poets in the Sky, winner of the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award (League of Canadian Poets)

I relished in Look at Her. Your voice is so accessible and easily aligned with much of my world (and many women’s, I imagine). I can tell how therapeutic many of the verses must have been for you; just to express the woman inside! Here are the lines I loved best:

“I bring out the big guns/ Prop them up with wine and Bustier red lace…”
“I hold your scent in my nose/ Make a restaurant of you in my mouth…”
“it was the words that punctured the lymphnodes and slowed the t-cells…”
“I am a woman/ my body is my story”
“I took my heart back in the tear-driven poetry that gathered all my pieces ad stanza-ed them together”

Vanessa Shields’ energy and enthusiasm for life-as-it-is sparks through each stanza…is female fusion-food for the experience of Womyn. Look at Her is for every mother who is ‘afraid to be the woman she is’. Shields’ poetry is a queen’s banquet of rich and decadent female food for reflection! – Kara Smith, writer/mother.


Look at Her, by Vanessa Shields, is a collection of poems dealing with the feminine in its most intimate and political way. Ms. Shields takes us on a journey both metaphorically and physically through clever insight and rich language.

This book breathes truth through all the various troubling and humorous times. An elegantly simple collection told as only someone who is immersed in the complex way of being edgily authentic can. Look at Her would do well to be savoured again and again. – Judith Neale, author of A Quiet Coming of Light (Leaf Press) 


Look At Her is not a gentle read. Vanessa Shields’ blistering honesty and raw unapologetic use of language marks her readers and leaves them blinking hard against the harsh, brilliant light. She tears down the comforting image of the silent, sexless female, with no opinions, no voice,nor even the desire to speak. Instead, she compels her readers to deal with the love and hate,pain and pleasure, doubt and heroism, the complex, contradictory, unresolvable mystery that is Woman. In short, Shields commands us to Look At Her, and when we do, dares us to try and look away. – Penny-Anne Beaudoin, Author of holy cards: dead women talking (Black Moss Press)


As a writer, a poet, a person, Vanessa Shields is generous. She gives us everything she can, in ways that amaze us, capture us, leave us without words of our own. She then wonders if she has given enough, or perhaps too much. Vanessa Shields’ Look at Her reads like an intimate treasure map of the author’s life and its direct impact on her body, where historical emotional battles are chronicled and circled twice, scars on body and soul appear in magnified insets, and pleasure and personal strength are marked with a big red X. Look at Her is a beloved, sensual, well-creased, food-stained document of bitter-sweet tragedy and painstaking triumph. Vanessa Shield’s second collection of poetry is deep and visceral, raw and moving, an exquisite, necessary outpouring, a brave work of art. –   Karen Sylvia Rockwell, Poet, Author of Curious Connections (Urban Farmhouse Press)


Energy, humour, anger, compassion – this blunt and tender book will fill you with gumption and glee. – Susan McMaster, author of Crossing Arc: Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me and Waging Peace: Poetry & Political Action

One thought on “Review of Look At Her in Biz X! And other reviews and thoughts…

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