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Memory's Daughter (Currents in Canadian Literature) Paperback – February 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"Ready your Kleenex. Edmonton's former poet laureate, Alice Major, delivers tears in torrents in her homage to her parents and ill sister. Avoiding over-sentimentality, Major relies on history, brutal facts, Greek myth and biblical metaphors in a perfect homage." Telegraph-Journal, February 27, 2010

"Alice is a prodigious poet, whose Office Tower Tales (the 2009 winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award) rivaled Chaucer's 'frame story' in the Canterbury Tales;…She sustains a classical context in this new collection." Anne Burke, Prairie Review, Spring 2010

#7 on the Edmonton Journal 'Edmonton Top 10' bestseller list

#3 on the Edmonton Journal "Edmonton Top 10" Bestseller list

"Memory’s Daughter, by Alice Major, moves beyond the harrowing experience of infirm parents and final illnesses, to a celebration of two remarkable people. Wielding meticulous research and a keen sense of place, Alice Major recreates the industrial world of Clydeside, the wartime Glasgow of her parents’ heritage. With glosas, ballads, sonnets, and lullabies, she tells of clocks and photographs, love and politics, of birds and butterflies, factories and alchemy. Memory’s Daughter contains some of the finest formal poetry of the past decade, but handled gently, unobtrusively, helping pure memory to glow just as a gas mantle’s structure helps the old fashioned gaslight illuminate a cobbled street." Pat Lowther Memorial Prize jurors, April 2011

"Elegiac and tender without sentimentality, Major’s poems pay homage to her parents, and especially her father, as he dwindled into dementia and eventually death. Although personal, the pieces in Memory’s Daughter are made richer by their infusion of myths such as that of Eve & Penelope, as well as through their delving into the early technologies of clocks, ships, gas lights and iron works. Embracing scientific diction, forms like the glosa and the adapted ghazal, refusing to shirk the difficult in either emotion or craft, Major’s collection is a consistently strong distilling of the world into poetry’s invaluable metals." "A remarkable book in its poetic craftsmanship, Memory’s Daughter rewards the reader anew with each reading. Major’s moving poetic exploration of family and memory on both emotional and lyrical levels reveal a mature poet taking her craft to a new level into various poetic forms and structures and bringing everything together with an apparent ease that comes only from the most skilful of poets." Winner of the WGA's Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry, 2011 Alberta Literary Awards jury comments.

"Arranged in six parts, Alice Major's Memory's Daughter enhances the long-poem tradition by adapting biblical and Greco-Roman myth to depict metamorphosis through life's seasons.... The Muse of Poetry, Mnemosyne's daughter, grants Major dominion over microcosm, macrocosm, and time itself, a 'pinprick hole in the sky,' illuminating memory... The fourth suite, 'Time is How,' is a remarkable linguistic tour de force, radiant in self-referential language, exploring signifying limits and polysemous freedoms." Karl Jirgens, Canadian Literature, Winter 2010 [See full review at]

"Award-winning Canadian poet, Alice Major, has been recognised for the way in which her writing evokes the universal character and concerns of human nature that connect us with those who came before and those who will come after. Major’s latest collection of poems, Memory’s Daughter, is no exception. This collection meshes the past with the present, drawing together the sacred and the secular while elevating the daily struggles and tragedies of quotidian experience to mythical heights.... Major’s collection remains a lyrical and moving tribute to the power of our stories and memories, which shape us even as we imagine we are shaping them. Sharon Selby, University of Edinburgh, British Journal of Canadian Studies, 24.1

From the Back Cover

FRONT FLAP: Memory's Daughter is Alice Major's poetic homage to her parents. In a collection of poems that is both elegy and celebration, she explores the transformations wrought by history, biology, and the alchemy of love. Her poems show how carefully she has listened to the voices of the Muses, the mythological daughters of Mnemosyne, goddess of Memory. The profound and moving lyrics in Memory's Daughter display the wide-ranging interest in science, mythology, and culture that is a trademark of Alice Major's work. Here she draws on subjects from Victorian photography and the Industrial Revolution to alchemy and evolutionary theory to create inventive images and vivid context for the complexities of life, death, and transformation. "Memory's Daughter is a tender, wise, beautifully cadenced work which embraces the reader on every page.... Alice Major's authoritative proficiency comes from a deep understanding of the complexities of aesthetic risks, and the elegance of those risks are so lightly manifested, so luminous, as to make the world newly visible." Don Domanski BACK FLAP: Alice Major was born in Scotland, grew up in Toronto and came to Edmonton in 1981. She served as the City of Edmonton's first poet laureate from 2005-2007. She has previously published eight highly regarded collections of poetry, among them The Occupied World and The Office Tower Tales. For the latter, she won The Pat Lowther Award in 2009. Her website is BACK COVER: Sunset glows ahead of them on the long highway home to the humdrum -- a crimson hem to the sky's high body. Quarrels litter the road behind them like hubcaps and rusting mufflers lost from their old car's body. Silence makes a hard stone of their day. But it is not what they are driving towards -- so incarnadine a body that it transforms hearts. The cold white lady reaches for his warm hand, touch of his body. The sky is multiplying itself into fire and the red sun sinks like a lump of cinnabar. The transforming body... from "Union through multiplication"

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More About the Author

Alice Major was born in Scotland and somehow ended up in Edmonton, the capital of Alberta and the most northerly of Canada's major cities. Here, she has published nine books of poetry and became Edmonton's first poet laureate. During her term, she wrote poems on subjects from potholes to hockey playoffs and served as an ambassador for her art form.

She has performed her work in Australia and Britain as well as across Canada. Her eighth poetry collection, "The Office Tower Tales", won the prestigious Pat Lowther award (given annually for a book of poetry by a Canadian woman) and the Book Publishers Association of Alberta's Trade Fiction Book of the Year Award. (Talk about genre-bending!) Her tenth book, "Intersecting Sets: A Poet Looks at Science" shifts genres again. This collection of essays has received rave reviews in publications as diverse as American Scientist and the Malahat Review.

Alice is past president of the League of Canadian Poets and the Writers Guild of Alberta, and also past chair of the Edmonton Arts Council.

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