Donna Langevin: Brimming
Donna Langevin, a retired teacher and mother of three sons, wears a triple hat. Poet and playwright, co-author of four ESL books, she is a long-time resident of Toronto. Her latest poetry collections include The Laundress of Time, Aeolus House 2015, In the Café du Monde, Hidden Brook Press 2008 and two chapbooks with Lyricalmyrical Press. She won first prize in the TOPS Contest 2008 and also in the Cyclamens and Swords contest 2009. She was short-listed for the Descant 2010 Winston Collins prize and was awarded second prize in the GritLIT Poetry Competition 2014 and second prize in The Banister Anthology competition 2017.
Donna is also an accomplished playwright: The Man with a Butterfly Hat was produced at the Toronto Alumnae Theatre New Ideas Festival, 2012. Welcome to Nuit Blanche was produced at the Ryerson 50+ Festival, 2014. The Dinner, published by Morel magazine, won first prize for script in the one act play contest for the 2014 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival as did Bargains in the New World in 2015. If Socrates Were in My Shoes was produced at Alumnae Theatre NIF, 2018.
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KUDOS for Brimming
Donna Langevin’s stunning poetry collection is indeed “brimming”—with tenderness and insight, benediction and bereavement. Odes—to brother, lover, sons and self, as well as daredevils—span from Quebec cabins to Niagara Falls barrels, from hospital beds to chambers of the heart.
Langevin explores “miracle-making” in the lives of the “broken beautiful” in heart-stings, heart attack, heartache and the gritty “what ifs” and “tumour talk.”
Delicate and individual as snowflakes, yet in her courageous and unflinching voice, the lightness of Langevin’s poetry is like “helium” that “still pines for an impossible refuge.”
– Kate Marshall Flaherty
Donna Langevin’s “BRIMMING” overflows with emotion for the vulnerable people she loves. This collection wells with longing for their survival like a prayer and celebrates their recoveries. Donna Langevin’s Catholic upbringing informs much of the collection; the poems are spiritual, often irreverent and defiant. The section “IN LIEU OF AN ODE” devoted to her brother who has struggled with heart problems is driven by joy like her whimsical poem “The Blue Sleigh” after a 1924 painting by Quebec artist Sarah Robertson. The Quebec settings in this section are vividly and beautifully described.
The collection moves from the personal into persona poems with a hilarious section about dare devils going over Niagara Falls in barrels, balls and kayaks, “TO STAY AFLOAT”. The risk taking persona of the collection’s narrator is evoked through these poems with a self-mocking tone.
The section “THE MAN WHO SLEPT BESIDE TORPEDOES” was inspired by a long time love and their journey through his cancer treatment and recovery. These poems swing from terror to tenderness and are not afraid to laugh. In “Waves”, from “THE THING IN THE MIRROR” about her “face plant” accident, she recalls “the first red breakers of pain” and getting to know her new face. In the poems devoted to her sons, Langevin continues her brimming. She swells with hope for her middle son after he has a heart attack in his forties and with longing as a mother who sought her own fulfilment over her middle son’s needs. The poem for her youngest son’s birthday sunflowers brims with gratitude and the poem for her eldest son about his memory of his grandfather folding a newspaper as carefully as origami celebrates newly discovered facets of her eldest son.
The poems about the poet’s own vulnerability in the final section, “THE STORIES THAT WRITE US”, do not flinch. The narrator defiantly regrets nothing like Edith Piaf’s “Sparrow”, yet longs for refuge in “A Year After Your Passing, Mom”. The narrator imagines her own passing as she recalls her grandmother’s story of the stork bringing new life in a knitted blanket in “An Old Yarn”.
This brave and beautiful collection does not turn away from suffering or mortality, but faces them with whimsy, playful language, original images and courageous honesty.
– Kate Rogers
A-brim with wise tenderness, Donna Langevin’s prayers and hauntings proceed (In Lieu of an Ode) from a heart bridged by leg veins, over-the-falls (To Stay Afloat), embracing risk and immersing us in a nuclear sub romance. Often witty, always emotionally available, Duende is there too, constant as an intravenous feed, as Langevin deftly approaches themes of corporeal fragility and forbearance, in poems that write us — flesh out their plots in our bloodstreams and bones.
– Tom Hamilton