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Praise for Birch Split Bark

Diane Guichon shows us that, like the birch shell of the canoe itself, the poetry of our culture must eventually become a kind of cradle, afloat, in which every Canadian learns to make love.
—Christian Bök

Diane Guichon’s Birch Split Bark skillfully takes apart the canoe as Canadian icon letter by letter. Her investigation of the deeply personal in the midst of the nationally symbolic makes these poems rich and complicated – she is a careful and thoughtful poetic guide, unafraid of the depths that language leads her to.
—Suzette Mayr

Diane Guichon’s Birch Split Bark lets language pick up the stroke to ingeniously portray a contemporary suburban family in terms of the canoe and canoeing – Canada’s true national sport. We witness the husband packing “pine pitch / salt pork and rum” in his briefcase before heading to the office, the wife negotiating a cocktail party as canoe trip, son Bobby viewing his sexual orientation as a portaged canoe he can never put down, and daughter Lily trying to use her father’s fixation on the canoe as a means to achieve closeness: to “build a canoe bridge over the father chasm.

A canoe can seem fragile and preposterously slow compared to an overpowered fibreglass runabout that can plane up to the head of the inlet in less than fifteen minutes. Similarly, poetry can seem outclassed as a means to understand the present state of the family compared to the razzle-dazzle of jump-cut images or a cursory surf through some site on the ’net. But Diane Guichon’s well-wrought characters convincingly reveal – through their complex relation to the transportation device that built this country, and that continues to loom large in Canada’s imagination and recreation – slow does not always mean weak. Her tough, supple verse also illustrates how blitzing through the world insulates you from seeing clearly where you are, let alone from identifying for yourself a more appealing destination than the goal that the salesman of your high-powered device assured you was best to aim for. Guichon’s poems – streamlined, low draft, human-propelled – confidently take the reader into places in the Canadian family where louder, larger and quicker craft would not dare to venture.
—Tom Wayman

In the four voices of a family - father, mother, son and daughter - Diane Guichon glides through the murky waters of relationships using the quintessentially Canadian leitmotif of a birch-bark canoe in her debut collection of poetry. One might be wary an entire collection balanced on such an iconic symbol, but it would be a misplaced fear. This is smart, sassy, tender writing that twists with unexpected narrative moments. It sustains the paddling theme with smooth strokes, portages over conflicting family expectations and glides stable and true through the uncharted territory of life and love.
The Calgary Herald

Guichon is adventurous, dipping into haikus, found, shaped and sound poetry. And her writing style is accomplished, especially when she explores a single character, such as John: "while the canoe hibernates in storage/ he totals the weight of years spent in/ paper labour." Birch Split Bark pinpoints the intersections between family, survival and the canoe…
Broken Pencil

She breaks open our traditional coherent canoe narrative by invoking canoes and canoe myths from other places and cultures. Though her tone varies, moving through a spectrum from intellectual play to deep feeling, she constructs a book with unusual coherence and unity by anchoring it firmly to the image, however fractured, of the canoe … the book as a whole is accomplished and satisfying.
—Maureen Scott Harris, The Goose