Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Poetry Canadian

act normal

by (author) nancy viva davis halifax

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


i might never be no-one that shiny / the beauty of a sequin’d self / what was stitched into heaven’s drop

The poems in act normal use illegibility and wilful uncertainty to evade the grasp of the normative, as endured by those institutionalized by, and through, the concept of normalcy.

act normal starts in an institution where children categorized and constructed as intellectually inferior are placed into custodial care. These poems are inquisitive, articulating the entanglements of lives across categories of difference – particularly the lives of those who as children were considered to be other or less than human. Drawing upon conversations, archival materials, court cases, legislation, transcripts, and case histories, among other sources, nancy davis halifax’s poems destabilize categories of meaning – understanding disability and difference as “undecidability.”

act normal is a movement of “feelingthought,” unsettling normative expectations and inviting readers to re-orient from the normative task of assuming the safety of consensual interpretation, while risking, cherishing, and performing non-indifference.

About the author

nancy viva davis halifax is associate professor in Critical Disability Studies in the Faculty of Health at York University. Their most recent collection is hook.

nancy viva davis halifax's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“‘The institution’s not a metaphor,’ writes davis halifax, who with foreslashed refusal (of ableism \ normopathy \ collusion \ eugenics), invites lyrical insurrections that might ‘fringe the day wider.’ We need wide days, my friends – days that can hold each story, each body, each ‘wordflower’ that wilds its blossom through the hard days of history. This is a book for ‘the disregarded and guarded,’ for those who have ‘lived loss.’ This is a book that resonates in places where you might find ‘the outlines of memories child shaped.’ This is a book for them, for us, for all those who continue to offer ‘exceptions[s] to the natural order.’ In this remarkable book, legacy and language conspire to ‘f e c u n d d e g e n e r a t e’ crisp futures that can love us all.” Chris Martin

“In this unflinching, brutally beautiful collection, davis halifax gives agency and voice to those who could not speak their own truth. These poems are an act of witness, at once tender and yearning, vulnerable and raging. There is an urgency to document ‘the heat before the fire is lit / the ache of the shovel before diggin’,’ to capture the abused and neglected in the strokes of letters because ‘by 2050 the books of memory will’ve been picked clean.’” Lillian Nećakov

act normal sings and bends. Hears and sees. It seizes the language by which the disabled have been represented and re-presents them beyond ‘the grasp of the normative as endured by [the] institutionalized.’ It calls to account. It tells and remembers, celebrates and witnesses with invention, beauty, rage, and insight. ‘Do not say that you did not know … you have been told.’ These are words that surge over the unspeakable to create poems about what needs to be said. ‘We needs that caress.’” Gary Barwin

Related lists