What Hurts Going Down

What Hurts Going Down

by Nancy Lee


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A searing exploration of girlhood in the pre- and post- #MeToo eras from the acclaimed novelist.

CBC Best Canadian Poetry of 2020

What keeps a kind girl alive in the wild? The men in town
are crapshoots, sawbucks, coins striking heads and tails.

Nancy Lee's searing collection of poems confronts how socially ingrained violence and sexual power dynamics distort and dislocate girlhood, womanhood, and relationships. Startling and visceral, the poems in What Hurts Going Down deconstruct a lifetime of survival, hover in the uneasy territory of pre- and post- #MeToo, and scrutinize the changing wagers of being female.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780771049033
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Publication date: 03/24/2020
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 5.76(w) x 8.48(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Hailed by the Globe and Mail as "a masterwork of revelation and catharsis," Nancy Lee's first book, Dead Girls was the winner of the VanCity Book Prize, as well as a finalist for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, the Pearson Readers' Choice Award, and the Wordsworthy Award. The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Vancouver Sun chose Dead Girls as one of the best books of the year, and Now Magazine named it Book of the Year. The Vancouver Sun described The Age, Lee's second book, a novel about adolescence, sexual identity, and nuclear war, as "utterly transfixing." Lee's work has been published in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. She has served as Visiting Canadian Fellow for the University of East Anglia, and as Writer-in-Residence for Historic Joy Kogawa House, the City of Richmond and Ville de Vincennes, France. Lee holds the position of Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia and is co-creator of the popular EdX online education series, "How to Write a Novel."

Read an Excerpt


When Coco says, Are you kidding? to the filmmaker who shoots in the South of France like Godard, who tells her to loosen her blouse, already I know I will waste years auditioning for the part of girl-with-potential. A man wants to see how you take direction.
Outside these rooms: parties, parking lots, corridors to empty elevators. After my first make-out session, the boy’s best friend says, Next time, make her take her top off. Everyone’s an auteur.
Even Coco, shivering as she eases out of her shirt, hopes this film will be, if not art, then artsy. Maybe the next Antonioni is lurking in the frat house cellar, outside the gym bathroom, in a guest room piled with coats while his wife serves hot hors d’oeuvres downstairs. Now take your thumb and put it in your mouth like a
little schoolgirl. Coco knows with the smell of old spunk and stale refrigerator, the cold against her nipples. Nobody goes to the
South of France. Outside the door, a hallway of other doors, and behind each one, a man calling action.

Table of Contents

No Place for a Heart

Four-Eyed Girls 3

Fame 4

Sexy Kids 5

Girl with Bear 7

No Place for a Heart 9

Post-Doc 10

Analysis 12

Alphas 14

What It Was Like 16

Ms. Clairvoyant 17

Scream Queens 18

Day Hazard 20

Hen Night 21

Ends of the Earth 22

The Most Girl Part of You

Arrival 27

Husbandry 28

Night at the Horseshoe 30

Appeal 31

Montecito 33

In Salem 35

Daughters 37

Pastoral 39

Covenant, Junior High 40

Skipping 42

Failing Photography 43

Dogs 44

The Vicar 46

Clay 48

Letter of Last Instruction

For the Next Person Who Asks 53

(How We Balance Teaching and Writing) What Are the Architects Doing? 55

Wife at the End of the World 56

How to Fight Crepey Skin at Home 58

He Can't Handle Those High, High Bitches 62

Keynote 64

Chronic 66

Practice 67

Of Factual Interest 69

Late October 70

Iowa 71

Natural Selection 72

Birthday Toast 74

What We Might Have Known 75

Letter of Last Instruction 76

Notes 79

Acknowledgements 81

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