The Woman I Am


95 pages
ISBN 0-920717-37-3
DDC C811'.52





Reviewed by Laurence Steven

Laurence Steven is Chairman of the English Department at Laurentian
University and author of Dissociation and Wholeness in Patrick White’s


Livesay has created a collection of intimate details spanning fifty
years of her life. The selections come from more than a dozen books, but
particularly from three collections: The Unquiet Bed, Plainsong, and Ice
Age. These poems express her desire to divulge the secrets women hold in
common by stating the unstated, unspeakable intimacies of her own life.
Doing so is a true accomplishment of women’s consciousness—or, as
Sheila Rowbotham would say, a way of “Putting words into silences.”
Livesay’s poetry asks why—in a century supposedly clamoring for
realism and breaking away from cliché—it is still more acceptable to
express the love poem in its chastest form (the platonic love of eye and
soul) than to express the reality of a woman’s desire, both sexual and

Livesay has never been afraid to shock. She can be as raunchy as
Leonard Cohen, and as political, but her real interest lies in
discovering the simple tricks of human relationships and describing them
with a triumphant sideways smile, as if to say, “I am strong enough to
write this in the first person—and you, reader, can you see yourself
in this one?”

One is quite aware of Livesay’s voice throughout this collection. Her
poems become an intimate letter to the reader—a sort of apologia pro
vita without a trace of the apology.


Livesay, Dorothy., “The Woman I Am,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 26, 2024,