Belated Bris of the Brainsick by Lucas Crawford

Lucas Crawford’s Belated Bris of the Brainsick is a sharp exploration of the search for happiness and selfhood. Crawford navigates a forgotten/lost Jewish identity. As a post-Catholic, Alberta-bound Newfoundlander and queer-identified person struggling with mental illness, the poet seeks to make space for belonging.

The opening poem entitled “Pick your Poison, Or, ‘Agency’” sets the tone. With competing options like “toy boat or bath beads? / This shirt or that? Frat or sorority? / Getting fresh or canned?” the poet conveys a vast and varied sense of conflict and confusion. The root? A lost and forgotten ancestry addressed in “Becoming Mischling of the Second Degree on Suicidal Christmas” crystalizes an innate unmooring:

At the bank trading papyrus bonds 
jaundiced babies point to me. 
I’m mischling of the second degree 
which means I’m not, legally, blond.

Confusion and disconnection are often couched within tongue-in-cheek humour, creating dissonance and inviting the reader into a growing sense of inner turmoil. Take, for example, “Pioneers” in which Crawford writes: “I am the first transgender person IN THE WORLD to fart in this seldom-used service elevator while standing on one foot rubbing my belly and tapping my head.” But the pain is palpable. From “Injury” in which the poet writes: “This is / not a metaphor. This is not a riddle. I am dying // inside and they’re going to peel open my middle.” To “Hospitals,” where Crawford flips reality to expose its raw underbelly:

Please, sir, tell me how your egg sandwich 
tastes after you’ve strapped down a teen, 
put her in a place while she screams 
that this is just like her last rape.

Still, Belated Bris isn’t all hurt. As Crawford points out in “Potential Stops on Our Maritime Book Tour,” the body yearns for otherness, “Just let me be gorgeous trash, here, / and there, and there, with you.” The poet is clear, there is hope—there is love, fragile though it may be, and the latter poems progress with tender trepidation. Crawford is hopeful in the glow of something new as evidenced in the final poem “Conjunction Tutorial”:

                        AS SOON as I saw you 
in your sleeveless black dress, I thought about 
depression clothes. I thought about so many people 
from our pasts, our own failures. Then I realized 
the extent to which people go in order to not reflect. 
Then I called you. Then I put on my prink party suit.

This collection is raw and vulnerable and full of heart.

Lucas Crawford, born in Halifax and raised in rural Nova Scotia, is a poet and assistant professor of English literature at the University of New Brunswick. Crawford has published three books, including Sideshow Concessions (Invisible Publishing, 2015), which won the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry, and Transgender Architectonics (a scholarly monograph). Crawford lives in Fredericton, NB.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nightwood Editions (Oct. 19 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 96 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0889713669
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0889713666

 -- Website

Kate O’Gorman is a writer and editor who lives on the Saskatchewan prairie traditionally known as Treaty 4 Territory near the city of Moose Jaw. She is the Prose Editor for Grain Magazine, and her work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Grain, Qwerty, and elsewhere. Kate holds an MFA in Writing and reviews books @prairieflowerreads.