Micrographia by Jennifer Bowering Delisle

Micrographia by Jennifer Bowering Delisle is a collection of delicate and perceptive essays on grief and loss, on continuity and life, on her mother’s journey and her journey. The word “micrographia” refers to one of the early symptoms of Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA), that of tiny writing, but it also describes an art form in which words and passages are inscribed on minute objects such as rice grains. Perhaps also the term can be applied to the style of these essays, for they are tiny writings –  short passages of reflections, observations, and memories, woven together from different sources and different times to form a cohesive whole in which every word, image, and thought is significant.

The introductory essay, “Micrographia”, establishes the context, shifting between the ways in which her mother experienced Multiple Systems Atrophy, clinical information on this rare degenerative neurological disease, and historical information on the art of rice writing and other forms of exquisitely tiny writing. All three elements are part of her story, and part of her mother’s story.

Section I, “Gater”, explores the nature of fears and feelings and the ways we address these. The author tells of her own fears, her struggles and despair with infertility and her anxieties regarding the possibility of being closed in. She describes what it was like for her mother when her body became “locked-in”: Although in excruciating pain, she sometimes became immobile, unable to speak or even press the help button she held in her hand. Historical examples, such as the  Victorian preoccupation with being buried alive, are interspersed. The context for the next two sections is established as we are drawn into the world as the author experiences it and as her mother experiences it, and reflect, as we read, on how we experience it.

Section II, “Knowing Another”, shares her grieving process both as a mother and as a daughter. There is a delicate intimacy as she yearns for her babies to grow to term, to be born, and the intense and deeply personal grief of miscarriage. There is also her grief as a daughter, seeing the very vital person who raised her becoming smaller, fading. She places her son on her mother’s lap, and her mother cannot independently hold her grandchild. Yet, this grief is not maudlin, not sympathy-seeking, and in no way judgmental. It is a gentle and beautiful sharing of events that are deeply personal but told with dignity. She bears witness with grace and humility.

Section III, “Apple, Earth”, tells the stories of her mother’s passing. Her mother, she told us earlier, was not a “romantic stoic”, but lived as one who pushed herself forward, although terrified and at times angry. She wanted to live, to be present in her future. She did not want to spend her final months prior to her medically-assisted death in a necessary long-term facility, “the home” which was not home. “Everyone should feel at home in the place where they sleep.” (p. 65) There is again no judgment, no imposition of one value system, simply a quiet witness to the events of that time. The same gentle mood continues as she follows the aftermath of her mother’s life and death, the life forward for those who loved her and were with her on her journey.

Told with sensitivity and honesty, the various strands of Micrographia form a tapestry of great beauty, a rare gift that touches deep into the human condition while uplifting the spirit.


Anne M. Smith-Nochasak grew up in rural Nova Scotia and taught for many years in northern settings including Northern Labrador,  the focal setting for her second novel. She has retired to Nova Scotia, where she enjoys reading, writing, and country living. She has self-published two novels through FriesenPress: A Canoer of Shorelines (2021) and The Ice Widow: A Story of Love and Redemption   (2022).

Jennifer Bowering Delisle is the author of a poetry collection, Deriving (2021) and a lyric family memoir, The Bosun Chair (2017). She has a PhD in English and frequently teaches creative writing classes and workshops. She is also a board member of NeWest Press. She lives in Edmonton / Amiskwaciwâskahikan / Treaty 6 where she is an instructional designer and a mother of two. Find her online @JenBDelisle and www.jenniferdelisle.ca.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gordon Hill Press (Sept. 1 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 150 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774220946
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774220948