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The Book Room: Spring 2016

Suzanne Buffam’s third poetry collection, A Pillow Book (House of Anansi), takes the reader into the haze-filled world of the insomniac, turning the half-muddled thoughts of sleepless-ness into irreverent, sharp and meditative poems. Buffam’s playful wit shines through in lists nestled between pieces of prose, ranging from “Books I’d Like to Read Someday” (“End Game, by Dr. Seuss”) to “Unendurable” (“An undergraduate who has just discovered Foucault”). These lists are, in part, an homage to the lists found in Sei Shpnagon’s classic Pillow Book, which detailed her life as an eleventh-century Japanese courtier. Buffam’s prose poems, while working as reflections on her own twenty-first century “court-life”—writing, teaching, parenting, marriage—can also be read as a deeper examination of gender and consumer culture. Buffam excerpts remarks from an older male editor about women writers with children, and lays bare subtle negotiations of guilt between ...

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