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Lyrical yet laced with more than a hint of menace, these subtly cadenced poems register with intense precision moments of parting and recognition. Amanda Merritt's first collection establishes her as deftly alert to hurt and beauty, and as a compelling new voice in Canadian poetry.
The Divining Pool by Amanda Merritt unites restless and edgy inventiveness with a sense of the classical that seems to me rare in a first collection. This is the rich, tender, carefully crafted work of a poet who dares to soar, in the sure confidence that should she fall, she has the imaginative gifts to document the enterprise in poignant detail.
The Divining Pool by Amanda Merritt opens with a suicide and a rebirth; the pool here is one of blood, opaque yet restorative. Drawing from Greek and Christian myth, the collection explores the generative power of sacrifice: these are poems in which women birth themselves (and their art) through their own foreheads—an effort that, despite their best attempts to conceal it, always leaves a scar. Imprisoned by mirrors, the speakers break free from the stasis of performative femininity by splitting their own bodies; bones here are knives and the doors they crack open, phallus and yoni. To live as a muse—“like a marble block/his own Pieta”—comprises both solidity and the dissolution of self; to cup one’s own heart like a baby’s head is to trade stability for depth, a process no less emptying. Yet the inevitability of loss haunts these poems, whose melting candles and slabs of meat marry romance and transience. It is in their embrace of emptiness—“the dark casing around stars”—that the speakers fill their private voids, close their wounds with words.
Amanda's workshops are engaging and inspiring. She facilitates thoughtful discussions and strikes a fine balance between fostering a safe space for sharing and creating a challenging environment in which students are encouraged to take risks in their writing. I can't recommend Amanda and her workshops highly enough. Poetry class will become the highlight of your week!
Amanda's workshop helped me to hone in on the intention of each poem, throw out the clutter and strengthen what was already working well. I learned from both giving and receiving critique. I appreciated the small group size and the casual, affirmative atmosphere. It was productive and fun!
Amanda creates a safe space for poets at all stages to share their work. She is supportive and has a depth of knowledge about poetry that she provides in just the right measure to help me gain greater insight into my work, but not to feel overwhelmed or intimidated. She creates an atmosphere that is more writing group than classroom, with lots of opportunity to learn from each others’ work and to receive insightful feedback. I have taken two classes from Amanda and would take more as I learn something new each time.
I participated in Amanda's screenwriting course and creative writing (poetry) workshop and found both rewarding. She provides detailed feedback verbally and in writing on class exercises and assignments. In addition, she has a unique ability to elicit discussion, summarize, and expand on ideas shared by the group.
I highly recommend taking a course or workshop with Amanda as she is an experienced teacher, passionate about the craft of writing, and inspires one to become a better writer
Amanda Merritt has a special gift for honing in on what is working in a poem and offering breadcrumbs rather than directions. This makes workshopping poems more fun, breathable and the entire experience becomes quite empowering! Highly recommend Amanda as a writing instructor/breadcrumb provider.
Amanda Merritt facilitated a welcoming, and engaging poetry workshop that helped me grow in my writing. Her knowledge and passion were inspiring and I would recommend her workshop to anyone looking for a small, inclusive environment to explore their own writing, while also celebrating others.
Amanda had great suggestions for improving my poems and created a safe and fun space to explore poetry.
Without any previous experience, I took Amanda Merritt's workshop in the spring of 2021 (and again in the summer!). Her relaxed teaching style made me feel very at ease despite my nervousness, and I am still amazed at how much I learned: from how to approach other people's work to the very difficult art of editing my own poems.