Panicle by Gillian Sze, ECW Press


Sze, Gillian

  • “Succulent in its excellence, Sze’s poetry insists that cultural ‘difference’ is what can make a beautiful difference in our apprehension of the ‘beautiful.’” — George Elliott Clarke on Peeling Rambutan

    In Panicle, Gillian Sze makes her readers look and, more importantly, look again. It’s a collection that challenges our notion of seeing as a passive or automatic activity by asking us to question the process of looking. The book’s first section, “Underway,” deals with the moving image and includes both poetic responses to film theory and lyrical long poems while also reimagining fairy tales. The next section, “Stagings,” takes its inspiration from the still image and explores a wide range of periods, movements, and media. Sze’s focus on the process of looking anticipates “Guillemets,” a creative translation of Roland Giguère’s 1966 chapbook, Pouvoir du Noir, which contains a series of poems accompanied by his own paintings. Sze’s approach to Giguère is two-fold: she “translates” his text, and artist Jessica Hiemstra provides a visual response to her translation. The final section, “Panicle,” continues the meditative quality of “Guillemets” in a suite of poems that ruminate on nature, desire, and history.


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  • Gillian Sze is the author of five poetry collections, including Peeling Rambutan (Gaspereau Press, 2014) and Redrafting Winter (BuschekBooks, 2015), both of which were finalists for the QWF A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Her work has received awards such as the University of Winnipeg Writers’ Circle Prize and the 3Macs carte blanche Prize. She studied creative writing and English literature and has a Ph.D. in Études anglaises from Université de Montréal. Originally from Winnipeg, she now resides in Montreal.

  • Published: September 2017

    ISBN: 9781770414051

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 90

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“Sze’s focus sweeps across the natural world, intimate relationships, and the literary, visual, and performing arts – and does so with the gentle and confident touch of a calligraphist . . . Sze has produced an exceptional collection – unique in viewpoint, impeccably researched, admirably restrained, and brimming with heart.” – Quill & Quire

“The opening poem in Panicle, Gillian Sze’s most recent book of poetry, is a masterful distillation of the emotional work of poetry . . . Regardless of the subject, Sze has a tremendous capacity to distill a moment or an observation down to its essence and have us look again, see anew . . . Panicle is a compelling and rewarding book. Not only are the poems beautiful and insightful, they vary in style and subject matter and travel us through a world of love and loss, of art and beauty, of nature, history and desire.” — Prairie Fire

“Sze’s willingness to experiment with different forms of poetry also makes Panicle so intriguing. From prose poems to sonnets, Sze showcases her immense talent . . . Sze has published yet another outstanding collection, offering us several budding points of conversation, and we have no choice but to follow the natural bifurcations of them, as we are led, dazzlingly, to their many blossoming conclusions.” — Ricepaper Magazine

“Beneath its enticing delicacy, Sze’s most potent work simmers with eroticism and, often, danger. Through such means as fairy tales, ekphrasis, and urban voyeurism, she evokes situations and settings all the more immersive for their potential risk. With their (and our) senses on high alert — the standard five, plus intuition — these poems chart modulations too subtle for most instruments.” — Stephanie Bolster, Governor General’s Award–winning author of White Stone: The Alice Poems

“Sze manages to slice into a moment to see all the working parts, letting each of those moments branch into another, creating a complex, surreal landscape. Poems that grow to the size of the world and shrink down to a pin prick. One of my favourite poets writing today, who always delivers.” — Daniel Zomparelli, editor-in-chief of Poetry is Dead

“Gillian Sze’s collection, Panicle, is full of the poetry of the everyday. Sze’s work sees and seizes the smallest details, isolates them, and celebrates them with a quiet, present eye. We witness the sometimes stolen, always cherished slivers of the speaker’s solitude and her thoughtful reflections on passing and past moments. ‘This is how the beginning sounds,’ Sze writes in a poem titled ‘Calligraphy.’ She says, ‘This is my heart. Look.’ And so we do.” — Melissa Bull, author of Rue

“Sze’s writing is enigmatic, but never opaque; it’s readable and original; it sings in its truth-telling. She writes after poets like William Carlos Williams, reveling in language and beauty, arresting the reader with a burnished perspective.” — Scene Magazine

“The book reflects this idea of sprawling, multifaceted growth in rich, innovative poems.” — Room Magazine

“In Panicle, Sze writes, ‘people grew alphabets / and found a way / to make voice / into marks / just so we could see / sounds.’ But it is she who makes these black slashes sing with query, surprise, and longing. In letting us bear witness to her looking, she allows us to see. Sze wakes us and we are both warmed and disquieted by a singular and remarkable voice.” — Michael Blouin, award-winning author of Chase and Haven and Wore Down Trust

“From the sounds of ‘an inkstick grinding against stone’ to that ‘small gasp / a small a’ of the closing poem, ‘Panicle,’ Gillian Sze takes you on a journey, like Du Mu’s traveller, to break the heart with its lyric grace and staggering beauty.” — Mary di Michele, author of Bicycle Thieves

Panicle by Gillian Sze is a collection of poems that are like jewel boxes: precise, specific and perfectly contained. People are changed by landscape and the small still-lifes that appear and then disappear. It is this poetic space that Panicle inhabits, with a voice that observes, charts and translates with just the right words.” — Jen Sookfong Lee, author of The Conjoined