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Poetry Canadian

I'd Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game

by (author) Alison Dyer

Breakwater Books Ltd.
Initial publish date
Apr 2017
Canadian, Nature, Places
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2017
    List Price

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***2019 E.J. Pratt Poetry Award WINNER*** ***2018 J.M. Abraham Poetry Prize FINALIST***
Richly imagined and evocative, I’d Write the Sea like a Parlour Game explores the diversity and resilience that inhabit life at the margins, from tuckamore trails to the streets of a coastal city, with intimacy and often wry humour. This debut collection heralds an imaginative new voice, steeped in curiosity, and takes a fresh look at ageless poetic terrains.

About the author

Alison Dyer's poetry and short stories are published in The Fiddlehead, Riddle Fence, Grain, 3 Elements Literary Review, The Newfoundland Quarterly, Rhythm Poetry Magazine, The Feathertale Review, The Nashwaak Review, Grimm Magazine, the Cuffer Anthology, WDRC's Phoenix Anthology and LCP’s forthcoming Tree Anthology. Her writings have twice won the NL Arts & Letters Awards, and her first published collection, I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game, is a finalist for the J.M. Abraham Poetry Award. Dyer has an M.Sc. in physical geography, grew up in England and Quebec, and now lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Alison Dyer's profile page


  • Winner, E.J. Pratt Poetry Award
  • Short-listed, J.M. Abraham Poetry Prize

Editorial Reviews

“Alison Dyer’s new poetry collection, I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game, captures Newfoundland’s dangerously unpredictable landscape with precise and unexpected language.”

The Overcast

“Dyer is comfortable with the eloquent long line and the crisp short line… Sometimes we hear dialect and several voices as in ‘Ode to the Potato Growers,’ a poem that echoes of Michael Crummey’s book Hard Light…. These are not patriotic poems, but celebratory poems, the speaker grateful for her time on a rocky coastline.”

The Fiddlehead; No. 274, Winter 2018

"I purchased Alison Dyer's book of poems almost a month ago and have been slowly devouring it poem, by poem. What a delight! If you have been to Newfoundland then the delight is doubled, but if not, then you will be wanting to head that way soon. Alison's images and language about life on the rock are full of warmth and laughter, sweetness and sorrow, sunshine and fog. It's truly a book to savour. Get a copy. You will see what I mean. Then go to Newfoundland..."

Michael Bradley

“The poems in Alison Dyer’s I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game are steeped in realism, particularly in the Newfoundland environment, its landscapes, streetscapes, rocks, flora and chickens… Dyer’s imagination engages nature not to dominate but to fuse perception with language, which she does admirably, page after page, often in miniature, and with surprising and affecting metaphors (as in the title poem). Her confident lines are textured and musical: ‘Knuckles of quartz punched out of bruised purple sandstone/ sea blue with scratch marks from wind and current, /and twinkling pools like barrels of marbles spilt’ (Tattoos of Signal Hill). These poems are a love song to place and are to be savoured.”

E.J. Pratt Poetry Award Jury

"The eagerly anticipated first collection by poet and naturalist Alison Dyer is an exquisite book of exquisite poems in a wide range of forms. In her poems, humans are, as they should be, as much part of nature as flora and fauna. She has the training, education and experience to know what she is looking at and the poet's heart to express it. In this, Dyer's first book, she bids fair to becoming one of Newfoundland's major poets"

David Benson

“Alison Dyer’s keen observations become rapturous in her tributes to the world around her in I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game. She writes like an ecstatic mystic, her lack of ego as refreshing as her humour. It is difficult to write poems that have such surprising images, employ clear simple language, yet go so deep. Dyer has accomplished this and more.”

J.M, Abraham Poetry Prize Jury

“Here is evidence of a life lived with sensitivity and appreciation for the details and how the world fits together. An accomplished and mindful writer, Dyer finds the seams in our perceptions and explores them in a way that invited me into her world. And there, through her playful and skilled use of language, my senses were teased, mystified and, in the end, satiated.”

Wade Kearley, author of Narrow Cradle

" I have recently discovered a delightful book of poetry written by Alison Dyer who lives in Newfoundland. While many might think that Newfoundland is a fog bound fishing place, Alison's poems reveal a much more varied and warmer place, where children explore the rocky shores and the dark forests beyond, where storms gallop across the sky and moose live in bottles! Suddenly it's a magical place which these poems bring to life. Read them and be enchanted. You won't be sorry you did!"


“The language is sparse yet rich in metaphors… As a tribute to the environment and people of Newfoundland, this poetry collection makes for an excellent read. If you’re like me, you’ll appreciate it even more with subsequent re-readings.”

Atlantic Books Today

“Physical geography might not seem like a field of study that would lead to poetry, yet the poems in the first collection by Alison Dyer are packed with a sense of place. I’d Write the Sea Like a Parlour Game explores the lands and seas of Newfoundland, and the people and animals who live there, through both fine detail and grand themes.”

Concordia University Magazine

“I won this in a Goodreads Firstreads giveaway...thank you to the author & publisher! This is a little book of beautiful, evocative, and exquisite poems that I will read again and again. While reading, I could hear the surf, feel the wind, smell the seaweed, and witness the beauty and drama of nature as though I was there, transported by Alison Dyer's poetry. She is an artist using language as her paintbrush, and skillfully painting every scene with an emotional and sensory celebration. A wonderful collection of little masterpieces.”


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