The Burden of Gravity : Poems (August 2020, Caitlin Press)
In her debut poetry collection, Shannon McConnell explores the fraught history of New Westminster’s Woodlands School, a former “lunatic asylum” opened in 1878 which later became a custodial training school for children with disabilities before its closure in 1996. Partially set in the 1960s and 70s, The Burden of Gravity uses personas to imagine residents’ lives, giving voice to those who were unable to speak for themselves, to shift focus from the institutional authority to the experience of residents. As poetry of witness, the collection uses a grounding tone to excavate the individual experiences through traditional narrative, ekphrastic and experimental erasure forms that elicit an array of emotions, from heartbreak to anger. Drawn from archival research, The Burden of Gravity, challenges readers to consider how we, in the aftermath of deinstitutionalization, choose to remember institutions like Woodlands School.