Wiles of Girlhood


93 pages
ISBN 0-88974-034-8
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by Sheila Martindale

Sheila Martindale is poetry editor of Canadian Author and Bookman and
author of No Greater Love.


This is extremely uncomfortable reading: Arnott takes us on a tour of
her life that includes incest, abortion, and violent abuse of all kinds.
She also leads us through the many stages of recovery from such
experiences—low self-esteem, anger, and hatred through to strength and

Some of the poems and prose vignettes are narratives of incidents,
while some are reflections on memories as the poet struggles to come to
grips with the damage inflicted on her. The writing is sparing, tight,
and powerful. The following is from “Wrenching Life From the
Ghosts”: “with your hard and angry fist / with your grinding teeth
of stone / with your clench upon my sex / i fought you hard / tore at
myself to escape you / ripped into flesh.”

More careful editing would have corrected some irritating errors, such
as the word “broke” used instead of “broken,” and “laying”
as the present tense of the verb to lie. And I have to question the
wisdom of printing two versions of the same poem in different sections
of the book.

These quibbles aside, Arnott has written her way out of pain, and the
result is a cogent and accomplished collection.


Arnott, Joanne., “Wiles of Girlhood,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/12472.