Girl running by Diana Hope Tegenkamp

Diana Hope Tegenkamp’s debut poetry collection Girl running is a broad-ranging effort that includes ruminations on loss, leaving, and acceptance and spans past, present, and future. The collection is enjoyable for its sensitive and subtle handling of themes like grief and dying, as well as its vivid language and imagery.

Many of Tegenkamp’s poems revolve around family relationships, particularly mother-daughter, although some poems deal with other family members. Several of the poems, including “Little Winters,” deal with Tegenkamp’s mother’s terminal illness:

   peripheral drift
in my mother's left cancer eye,

her vision
a wind-tossed sea.

Despite what might, in other hands, be gloomy topics—for example, illness and acceptance of the inevitable—many of the poems convey a sense of lightness and optimism. For example, the poem “Clouds” contains the lines:

Today’s sky is grey and blue, why speak
to the dead? Let them return in dreams
if they must. This morning, go down to the river.
Touch the tree trunks and tell the clouds:
I see you.

The natural world plays a role in many of the poems, as in “Naming,”:

Raven floats oceanic in the sky, glistening wave
of black wings, now strangely mammoth, stationary
on the low branch outside the window.

The collection is divided into sections, with the poems included in “Each Breath an Oar” being among the most powerful. This section begins with the dreamlike opening lines of “The Ark”:

Sleep is not farmland. It has no boundary. Sleep
is wind passing through and round houses and barns, passing round
and over things in formation and form does not matter, nothing
but sleep and dreaming, nothing, just wind, sleep, 
and this dream, blurred deer in field at side of road.

The poems offer variety in form, with some having several numbered stanzas, while others are less than a page long. One poem, “my | BELOVED | HISTORY,” is more experimental. Full of strike-throughs and footnotes, this poem is written in conversation with Anne Wilson’s 1809 work Letters on Ancient History.

While many of the poems are free verse, there is also some prose poetry, which is still poetic in nature. For example, “Loop” includes the lines “What does the dawn know of dark woods? Or the desert where the hands of a girl reach through the air?”

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In many of the poems, Tegenkamp juxtaposes concrete and abstract to powerful effect, as in the opening lines from “Trees”:

Autumn leaves
at the point of falling.

Readiness and decay. 
Then the chickadee’s fee bee.

Traveler, where are you going?

Though some of the topic matter feels deeply personal, Tegenkamp provides enough space in the poems for the reader to find their own meanings.

The pieces in Girl running hint at a connectedness between seemingly disparate people, places, and objects, and a sense that there is peace to be found in acceptance of what is. Evocative and powerful, this collection is well worth a look.


About the Author

Diana Hope Tegenkamp is a Metis writer who lives and creates on Treaty 6 Territory, Homeland of the Metis. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals across Canada, including CV2, Grain, and Matrix, to name a few. In 2020, she was awarded second prize in the Banff Centre Bliss Carmen Poetry Contest and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Diana works across mediums, including film, photography, visual art, performance art, sound and music. Her video performance piece, UNMUTE, was selected for SLANT’s 2021 Writing Bodies festival, and more of her multi-disciplinary work, including film poems for Girl running, can be found on her website, www.dianahopetegenkamp.com. She lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Thistledown Press (Sept. 30 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 120 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771872144
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771872140

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Anne Smith-Nochasak
Anne Smith-Nochasak
January 4, 2022 08:56

This promises to be a powerful read. Thank you for this sensitive analysis.

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February 7, 2022 00:55

[…] review, non-spec, Girl running by Diana Hope Tegenkamp, The Miramichi Reader, January 3, 2022, https://miramichireader.ca/2022/01/girl-running-by-diana-hope-tegenkamp/ […]

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