Searching for Evidence of Ancestors: Lauren Carter 's Following Sea

Wednesday 30 December 2020

This review originally appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine

The first poem in Following Sea, Lauren Carter’s second collection of poetry, stands alone, untethered from one of the book’s five sections. Titled “Historian,” it’s set in modern day, a contrast from most of the other 49 poems inhabiting Carter’s meticulous look at family history and human migration.

I find
them: pressed
between pages, those sudden
cursive blooms

she writes in this first piece, searching for evidence of her ancestors’ lives on reels of microfiche and on the pages of worn ledgers.

Centred on the Canadian settler experience of her great-great grandparents, John Willson Chisholm (1823-1900) and Margaret Patterson (1824-1891), Carter crafts a narrative. With finely tuned attention to detail and elegant language, she fills the gaps between dates found on census records and land registers, weaving together family lore, Canadian social history, and genealogical research to imagine their joyful celebrations, gruelling physical labour, and daily burdens. 

Read the full review here

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