News and Interviews

The Dirty Dozen, with Genevieve Lehr

Genevieve Lehr's second collection of poetry, Stomata (Brick Books), fearlessly explores the experience of grief, from the personal to the political. From abuse and cancer to residential schools, Stomata brings an energy and linguistic sophistication to the rawness and disorientation of the grieving process. 

The opening long poem of the collection was one of two pieces that won the Malahat Review's Long Poem Award, and was been praised as "wide and surprising... fascinating" by jury.

Genevieve Lehr.2016

Today we welcome Genevieve to Open Book as part of our Dirty Dozen series, where we invite authors to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. Genevieve tells us about a very chilly (and somewhat smelly) day job from her past, teaches us the Latin term for mushroom-love, and tells us why you might catch her reading to a tadpole. 

  1. I once worked in an unheated fish plant in St. John’s NL in the dead of winter. I dug worms from the filleted bodies of Atlantic cod while wearing ski boots and a parka to keep from freezing.
  2. I rescue injured animals, even fruit flies (who should know better than to fall in my glass of wine) and earthworms.
  3. In February-March 2014 I accompanied Elizabeth Penashue on her last Meshkanu (walk on the land) across the Mealy Mountains in Labrador. We walked on snowshoes for a month setting up camp along the way.
  4. I’ve had a phobia about eels since I was a small child when I believed they were snakes that would wrap around my legs, haul me out to sea and drown me. I got over it though, for the most part.
  5. I never owned a Barbie doll.
  6. I never ride a bicycle in the city; afraid a car’ll magnetize me and I’ll drive into it, or something like that. I think it’s related to balance.
  7. I’m a mycophile. Hard core, but friendly.
  8. In Yelapa, Mexico, during the intense heat of the rainy season this summer, I taught a bread-making class in the jungle.
  9. I never eat watermelon.
  10. I like to read the poems I write about things back to them, especially tadpoles and rivers.
  11. I like to spend time in the company of chickens, and plants.
  12. I rent a home for five cats. In return they give me a room and let me live with them. 

Born in Newfoundland, Genevieve Lehr has lived and worked as an ESL teacher coast to coast in Canada. She lives in Halifax. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals, both in Canada and abroad. She is the editor of Come And I Will Sing You: A Newfoundland Songbook (University of Toronto Press, 1985, reprinted 2003). Lehr is the author of the chapbook The Design of Wings(Running the Goat Press, St. John’s NL, 2004), and her debut collection was The Sorrowing House (Brick Books, 2004). Stomata is her second poetry collection.

Buy the Book


Stomata, Genevieve Lehr’s second collection, asks that language shoulder loss, that it reach out centrifugally, at full metaphorical stretch, calling upon all its narrative and lyric resources to be adequate to human tragedy. These losses include immediate deaths, Alzheimer’s, abuse, cancer, and—in a remarkable poem—residential schools, and they activate a potent spirituality that calls on a full range of imagistic resources.

As a grief book, Stomata is remarkable for its energy and range. While it honours and remembers the lost, it is always charged with a sense of a mystic power deriving from them. “In a conversation between Homer and Hermes, loss was found to be a gift,” writes Lehr. The result is the poetic experience of a vitalistic universe in which “Metamorphosis is everywhere”: a grief-enhanced rather than a grief-stricken vision. In Lehr’s poems, one keeps being struck by a simultaneity of mundane and cosmic, as can be see in the first lines of her opening long poem: “In the latter half of the third quarter of the waning moon / I sit at the table drinking tea.”

This is a book that is constantly provocative, alive with spirit and a restless energy in the face of disaster.