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The Burden of Gravity

About the Book

In this haunting and disarming debut, McConnell recalls a dark time in BC’s history to give poetic voice to the many forgotten residents of the infamous Woodlands School. In her debut poetry collection, Shannon McConnell explores the fraught history of New Westminster’s Woodlands School, a former “lunatic asylum” opened in 1878 which later became a custodial training school for children with disabilities before its closure in 1996. Partially set in the 1960s and 70s, The Burden of Gravity uses personas to imagine residents’ lives, giving voice to those who were unable to speak for themselves, to shift focus from the institutional authority to the experience of residents. As poetry of witness, the collection uses a grounding tone to excavate the individual experiences through traditional narrative, ekphrastic and experimental erasure forms that elicit an array of emotions, from heartbreak to anger. Drawn from archival research, The Burden of Gravity, challenges readers to consider how we, in the aftermath of deinstitutionalization, choose to remember institutions like Woodlands School.

About the Author

Shannon McConnell is a writer, educator and musician originally from Vancouver, BC. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in untethered, The Fieldstone Review, Louden Singletree, In Medias Res, Rat’s Ass Review, The Anti-Languorous Project, and more. She holds degrees in English Literature and Education from the University of the Fraser Valley and Simon Fraser University, respectively, and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s MFA in Writing program. In 2018, she won second place for the John V. Hicks Long Manuscript Award for Poetry. She finished an MA in History at the University of Saskatchewan in 2020 and is now pursuing her PhD at Queens University in Kingston, ON.

2021 Book Awards