The Given.


136 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 978-0-7710-5458-7
DDC C811'.54




Reviewed by Lori A. Dunn

Lori A. Dunn is a ESL teacher, instructional designer, and freelance
writer in New Westminster, B.C.


The Given, the latest long poem by Daphne Marlatt, is a kaleidoscope of memories welling up in the mind of the narrator. The book opens with a woman waking one morning to ready her family for the day, only to have her father call with the news of her mother's death. On the drive to her parents' home, every exit or turn in the road suggests a memory of her mother or of her childhood. Once arrived, mementos and corners of the house cause her to relive more moments, both the delightful and the painful. The thoughts flow and flip over each other, suggesting the mind's true chaos, especially when under emotional strain.


The poem is divided into sections, some addressing the connections and connotations of the present day narrator's memories, and the others focusing on the childhood memories of the 1950s in Vancouver. The chapters in flashback recount the narrator's perceptions of galvanizing events in the city at that time, and how her mother and family reacted. These stories of local significance serve as reminders or mental structures upon which the narrator's recollections of her childhood are built. The expressive beauty of Marlatt's ability to interweave flashback and perception into a cohesive whole is remarkable.


A tribute to families and memories, The Given is a deeply moving piece. But it is more than a celebration, it is also an exploration of the frailty of memory. Marlatt, through the narrator, reminds us that the "contours of memory-landscape, significant features of its stories shift with the years."


Marlatt, Daphne., “The Given.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 19, 2024,