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The Hidden Brook Press

North Shore Series
Fine Canadian Literature

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When I Think On Your Lives


Tara Kainer

A Hidden Brook Press book "When I Think On Your Lives" by Tara Kainer

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Hidden Brook Press

ISBN – 978-1-897475-68-3


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Blurb about the book:

“There’s a wonderful sense of community in Tara Kainer’s debut collection of poems, encompassing both nearby neighbours and the distant kinship of the stars. Honest, personal, and humane, her poetry is so down-to-earth it reaches into the roots of everything.”


Jason Heroux,
Kingston writer,
author of the poetry collection
"Emergency Hallelujah" (Mansfield Press)
and the novella
"Good Evening, Central Laundromat"
(Quattro Books).



Tara Kainer is a writer who pulls no punches – deeply self-examining, she takes on the natural world, love, war, and poverty, and insists on a human response, a recognition of meaning.  From the beauty of the "spun-butter moon" to the rages of the welfare office, from the wide prairie landscape to the many storms of mind and heart, these poems ask essential questions of identity, judgement, and the weight of past experience – "all those versions/of yourself imposed on you by others." 

Interpreting crows' caws or the cacophony of war coverage, her attempts to "know what things are" are bracing and beautiful.  She invokes David Suzuki, Ezra Pound, and "the poets/whose truth seeps through/the cage of the printed word."  Kainer's poems articulate a singular, uncompromising voice "measuring the light of my mind/by the light of those stars," a reminder of human decency and the importance of the place of the poet:  both "to get at the truth, if it's possible" and "to be such a fool/for beauty."

"Mary Cameron,

author of the poetry collection "Clouds without heaven" (Beach Holme Press).




June 26th, 2011 by Rose

She’s been on welfare. Tara says that right up front in an interview on youtube. (Link on right). Titles of the work in her new book give you some idea of what she’s been through: Past Hope, Sadness, I Didn’t Count On This, Hunger, Love Is Like Death, This Yearning, There’s A Funeral Here Today, Collateral Damage, Misreadings, Self-Doubt, At The Welfare Office, But I’m Hungry. Plus Denial and A Lunatics Love Song. Those are just the obvious ones.

And yet she is constantly surprised by nature; that it exists at all. She doesn’t expect it will be there for her: “I didn’t count on this/a riot of colour in the rain red leaves”, “Otherworldly light/spills across the sea, the sky/unearthly, faery, godly/gossamer light.”
A disclaimer. Tara is one of my heroes. This gentle glowing tough woman who has plowed her way through more mountains than the rockies ever had, stood her ground while trouble rained on all sides and now produces a book so like herself in its tenderness and unshakeable faith in what should be, what ought to be and how it can be told.

For, ‘A Single Seed,’ alone she deserves nomination for some kind of award within the community of poets. I read it aloud to my husband the critical and seldom impressed philosopher and he said, ‘OH WOW SHE’S GOOD!” The opening stanza’s begin in the garden where she suddenly marvels that she is here on this planet, living this life and then she begins to sum up:

“I am
a middle-aged woman
of the 21st century. Three
children, three jobs, alone
in a rented apartment, an image
in the mirror I don’t recognize.
What convergence of forces
rooted me here? Which corner
should I have turned, thought,
suppressed, action taken, lover

You can purchase it online or at the Novel Idea in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Let her know what you think once you’ve absorbed it, eh?



Hidden Brook Press - When I Think On Your Lives by  Tara Kainer

Biographical Sketch:

Tara Kainer grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and Regina, Saskatchewan. She attended the University of Regina and Queen’s University, Kingston and has been a long-time advocate for rights and services for the poor. She has published poetry in literary journals, including Ash, ed. Wayne Spears, and the Queen’s Feminist Review; in anthologies: Kingston Poets’ Gallery, Elizabeth Greene, ed. (Artful Codger Press, 2006); ‘Scapes, Diane Dawber, ed. (Hidden Brook Press, 2007), and Common Magic: The Book of the New, Danielle Gugler and Elizabeth Greene, eds. (Artful Codger Press, 2009). As a member of Foxglove Collective, she co-edited On the Threshold: Writing Toward the Year 2000 (Beach Holme, 1999). She has also published essays, articles, interviews and book reviews in several newspapers, journals, and magazines, including ARC, NOISE, Quarry, and the Kingston Whig-Standard. Currently, she is employed by the Justice, Peace, & Integrity of Creation Office of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul in Kingston, Ontario.

Tara Kainer attended the University of Regina and Queen’s University, Kingston. She has published poetry in literary journals, including Ash, ed. Wayne Spears, and the Queen’s Feminist Review; in anthologies: Kingston Poets’ Gallery, Elizabeth Greene, ed. (Artful Codger Press, 2006); ‘Scapes, Diane Dawber, ed. (Hidden Brook Press, 2007), and Common Magic: The Book of the New, Danielle Gugler and Elizabeth Greene, eds. (Artful Codger Press, 2009).



Reviews - See below

Reviewers: If you would like to write and publish a review of this book please contact the publisher for a free copy of the book and author contact info. Please feel free to use any material from this website.  On request we will email you high res pics of the cover and author if needed. Contact - Richard Grove / Tai 613-475-2368 or



From the website Literatured -

The Canadian indie publisher, Hidden Brook Press, recently published Tara Kainer’s first collection, When I Think On Your Lives. Any publisher who continues to take chances on first books, especially first books of poetry, and especially without first demanding the author take part in some cattle call of contest and include a $25 check for the honor of participating… well that publisher has my thanks for standing up against a pernicious and damaging trend.

But on When I Think On Your Lives.

This is definitely a first collection. I mean this in the sense of the variety of styles and influences I see in (or project upon) the book. Looking through the poems, the variety of styles suggests not only a book that was put together on the basis of ‘what are the best poems I have written so far,’ but also of a poet who has not yet reached her final voice.

A number of the poems reflect a subtle feminist poetics, so it’s not surprising that I read the influences of Louise Gluck, Sharon Olds, Anne Carson into her work.

The book is divided into three sections: ‘I: Celestial Convergence,’ ‘II: The Trace in the Mind,’ and ‘III: When I Think On Your Lives.’

I found the poems in the first sections to be more satisfying and more inventive. For me, the more Kainer indulges in traditional narrative poetry, the less unique her voice sounds and I read many more in that vein to close out the book.

But before I reached that point, there were a great many wonderful things. Poems reaching, stretching, and experimenting.

Her work was recommended to me because of my love for Ezra Pound. She explicitly expresses her debt to Pound, opening two poems with quotes from Pound and informing her work based upon those lines. Not in derivative sense, but in the way that Anne Carson’s Nox is informed by Catullus.

There is also something Pound-like in her commitment to ‘make it new,’ as Pound famously, wrote, while also struggling, as Pound did in his own work, to always abide by that dictum in her own work. Of course, any discussion of that famous statement must also address the question of newness for newness’ sake goes too far, but that is for another time.

I would like present one of her shorter poems – the first poem, in fact, in When I Think On Your Lives:




The artist is always beginning

- Ezra Pound


Where does one step into the stream?

At which point do I say, Be still.

A backwards flow into memory,

Landscape already altered,

Shadows case, images

In sharp relief,

Details put down so others may live:

Act of creation a certain death.


In it, you see touches of Chinese poetry (Pound also being a noted translator from the Chinese), the philosophy of Heraclitus, connection to the natural world, and even feminism in the final line which brings into mind not just artistic creation but biological creation – birth.

These themes – Pound, philosophy, feminism, care for the world, nature – occur throughout. It’s not unsurprising to learn that she was partly inspired to write by The Cantos and their effort to write a poetic history. Nor that she studied philosophy. Nor that her work, beyond poetry, is dedicated to advocacy for the poor and disenfranchised. Nor that she made a particular study of the British Romantics, who so wrote so beautifully and passionately about nature and man’s place in the natural world.

Having just shown you the first poem, let me also include the final poem. I encourage you to check this book out to read what lies in between. After all, it’s not where you begin the journey nor where you end it that matters so much as the journey itself.


It’s the Laughter


It’s the laughter

in the evening—

Dolores & June

sprawled in their

lawn chairs across

the street, taking

a well-deserved

rest after 70-odd

years of feminine

struggle, calling

Howdy stranger! as

I step out the door

into the lengthening

shadows of the deepening

day: it’s the murmur

of their voices as I

pick tomatoes hanging

like moons; it’s the

moon; high & full

racing past clouds

the colour of dust

& ripe blueberries,

the call of geese

in V-formation, my

cats in the garden

crouched low, stalking

their neighbours; it’s

the wind, the cool

lake breeze sweeping

across the land

to my yard, lifting

my clothes & my hair

with its soft, gentle

fingers, balm to

the pressing white

heat of the day: it’s

gathering ripe tomatoes

like jewels in my arms,

offering the treasures

to June & Dolores who

give me recipes & praise

in exchange;

it’s their

asking, Do you know

what marijuana looks

like? then leading

me to the edge

of the sidewalk to

point at a plant, a

leprechaun green,

frayed-edge, three-

leafed gem springing

up from the pavement, &

me saying, It sure

looks like marijuana;

their hoots of laughter,

confessing they hadn’t

believed Jason but

they do me, yet  how could

it be, where did it

come from, who could

have planted the seed?

it’s their warning me

in conspiratorial giggles

I might see the stumbling

& acting queer; it’s

hearing their voices

fade away in the

dusk as I ascend

my apartment stairs,

tomato-laden & light-

hearted; oh, yes, it’s

the laughter

in the evening.