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Poetry General

Small Arguments


by (author) Souvankham Thammavongsa

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
May 2023
General, Women Authors, Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Dec 2003
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


A beautiful re-issued edition of poetry from the Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author of How To Pronounce Knife


The language of Small Arguments is simple, yet there is nothing simple in its ideas. Reminiscent of Pablo Neruda’s Elemental Odes, these poems explore the structures of argument, orchestrating material around repetition, variation, and contrast. Thammavongsa’s approach is like that of a scientist or philosopher, delicately probing material for meaning and understanding. The poet collects small lives and argues for a larger belonging: a grain of dirt, a crushed cockroach, the eyes of a dead dragonfly. It is a work that suggests we can create with what we know and with that alone.

First published in 2003, Small Arguments announced the arrival of a distinct and utterly original new voice.

About the author

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in Nong Khai, Thailand, in 1978 and was raised and educated in Toronto. She won the 2004 ReLit prize for her first poetry book, Small Arguments. She is also the author of a second poetry book, Found, which was made into a short film and screened at film festivals worldwide, including Toronto International Film Festival and Dok Leipzig. Some of her poems were written while she was a resident at Yaddo. Poems have appeared in many of Canada’s literary journals and magazines, including Canadian Literature, Contemporary Verse 2, dANDelion, Event, The Fiddlehead and The Windsor Review. The poem “The Sun in Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away” appeared in the anthology Troubling Borders: Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora published by the University of Washington Press in the United States. The poem “Perfect” was nominated for a National Magazine award. Thammavongsa was named one of “Best Under 35” writers in Canada in a special issue of The Windsor Review. She lives in Stouffville, Ontario.

Souvankham Thammavongsa's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Souvankham Thammavongsa and Small Arguments:

“Here is a delicate and graceful hand naming the fragile materials of poetry.” —Dionne Brand, author of Nomenclature: New and Collected Poems