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Love Me True

Writers Reflect on the Ins, Outs, Ups and Downs of Marriage

Edited by Fiona Tinwei Lam

Edited by Jane Silcott

A   B C   B E S T S E L L E R

What keeps us together? What breaks us apart? In Love Me True, 27 creative nonfiction writers and 20 poets explore how marriage and committed relationships have challenged, shaped, supported and changed them. The stories and poems in this collection delve deep into the mysteries of long-term bonds. The authors cover a gamut of issues and ideas–everything from everyday conflicts to deep philosophical divides, as well as jealousy, adultery, physical or mental illness, and loss. There’s happiness here too, along with love and companionship, whether the long-term partnering is monogamous, polyamorous, same-sex or otherwise. From surprise proposals, stolen quickies, and snoring to arranged marriage, affairs, suicide, and much more, the wide-ranging personal stories and poems in Love Me True are sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing, and always engaging as they offer their intimate and varied insights into the complex state that is marriage.

Editors Jane Silcott and Fiona Tinwei Lam have assembled work from notable authors across Canada, both well-known and up-and-coming, including Luanne Armstrong, Joanne Arnott, Donna Besel, Ronna Bloom, Lesley Buxton, Mandy Len Catron, Kevin Chong, Lorna Crozier, Michael Crummey, Eufemia Fantetti, Jane Eaton Hamilton, Maureen Scott Harris, Maureen Hynes, Michelle Kaeser, Jagtar Kaur Atwal, Chelene Knight, Evelyn Lau, Ellen McGinn, Lauren McKeon, Monica Meneghetti, Jane Munro, Susan Musgrave, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Juliane Okot Bitek, Susan Olding, Elise Partridge, Miranda Pearson, Toni Pieroni, Tana Runyan, Rachel Rose, Andreas Schroeder, Karen Shklanka, Anne Simpson, Kara Stanley, Chris Tarry, Rob Taylor, Yasuko Thanh, Russell Thornton, Ayelet Tsabari, Bronwen Wallace, Betsy Warland, Gina Leola Woolsey, Samra Zafar, and others.

“Such a wonderful collection. Funny, sad, poignant, diverse: this is an eloquent and entertaining exploration of the ways we wed, break up, find ourselves and one another.”
—Deborah Campbell, author of A Disappearance in Damascus

Love Me True features stories and poems written by men and women who push and tug at love, struggle to stretch it around their own unruly hearts. Some are pioneers, venturing on gay marriage or polyamory. Some escape from arranged marriages or infidelitous ones. Some are brave, loving on despite tragedy, loss and the vicissitudes of ageing. I was impressed by the unflinching honesty of these writers—their utterly candid account of intimacy and their feelings about it.”
—Claudia Cornwall

“Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, which makes the institution half as safe a bet as this terrific collection of brightness and darkness — to have, hold, and read, in sickness and in health.”
—Charlie Demers, comedian & author of The Horrors

“Jane Silcott and Fiona Lam have put together the best book on marriage I’ve read—and I’ve read a bunch! It’s an anthology of voices from writers of diverse cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and romantic and sexual orientations. So much writing about marriage aims for depth over breadth (and focuses on heterosexual monogamous commitment by default)—and what I love about this anthology is that it somehow achieves both depth and breadth. I’m so happy to be a part of it—alongside a whole bunch of writers I really admire.”
—Mandy Len Catron, author of How to Fall in Love with Anyone

“… There are no valentine cards here: one soon detects the irony of the collection’s title. But what there is—courage, candour, and strong writing with eloquent resonance—makes this an anthology to treasure…”
—Graham Nicol Forst, Canadian Literature

  • “Preface”, Jane Silcott & Fiona Tinwei Lam, p. 1

 

Evolution

  • “Let’s Get Married”, Ronna Bloom, p. 6
    • An exuberant response to the wedding of close friends that celebrates the feeling of being married to the world.
  • “The Evolution of Marriage”, Luanne Armstrong, p. 7
    • A thrice-married and thrice-divorced writer reflects on how marriage has reformed itself over the decades, through the sixties, seventies, and eighties to the present.
  • “On the Piano”, Jane Eaton Hamilton, p. 13
    • The story of one same-sex litigant couple’s attempt to have their nuclear family photographs included on the parents’ piano with the rest of the family.
  • “Cover to Cover”, Fiona Tinwei Lam, p. 19
    • As the author struggles with the label of “wife,” she examines the roots of marriage in English property law and in Confucian dictates about family hierarchy.
  • “Dear Son”, Betsy Warland, p. 27
    • A mother’s letter to her nineteen-year-old son about what she learned in her intimate relationships over five decades.

Decisions

  • “By the time you listen to this, I’ll be gone”, Chelene Knight, p. 36
    • Marriage is always a choice, but it’s also a societal pressure that comes at a price too high for some.
  • “Beach of Love and Death”, Yasuko Thanh, p. 38
    • A carefree traveller begins a risky affair with a marriage-minded escaped convict on Mexico’s south coast.
  • “Finding a Way Out”, Jagtar Kaur Atwal, p. 45
    • The marriage-minded parents of a young gay East Indian woman invite a prospective husband to their home to meet her against her wishes.
  • “The Marrying Kind”, Ayelet Tsabari, p. 53
    • A woman reluctantly walks down the aisle in order to stay in Canada with the man she loves.

Commitment

  • “Arrivals, Departures”, Russell Thornton, p. 62
    • This poem depicts how love can transcend geography and bureaucracy when a Canadian is separated from his spouse by immigration police at an airport in Rome.
  • “Every Stepfather Has His Day”, Kevin Chong, p. 64
    • A man learns that when you’re marrying a woman with a child, you’re committing to them both, joining a family while simultaneously making a new one.
  • “The New Sacred”, Monica Meneghetti, p. 69
    • What could a non-monogamous partner possibly have to say about marriage?
  • “Bees of the Invisible”, Kara Stanley, p. 79
    • In the years after a trauma has changed their world, a couple explores who they are now and who they aim to be in the future.
  • “Shorter Days”, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, p. 87
    • After four decades together, a couple speaks in silence and potent acts of renewal.

Passion

  • “Getting the Marriage into Bed”, Michael Crummey, p. 92
    • A poem about moments of stolen bliss with your spouse when you have young kids and a tumultuous household.
  • “Fireworks”, Evelyn Lau, p. 94
    • A poem that attempts to capture an awkward evening spent in the company of two married couples who are cheating on each other.
  • “Lice”, Miranda Pearson, p. 95
    • A poem about jealousy, implies a search for evidence, and perhaps clearing it up—perhaps ignoring it or tolerating it.
  • “The Woman in This Poem”, Bronwen Wallace, p. 96
    • A poem about a woman debating whether or not to leave her husband and family for her lover.
  • “In Anna Karenina Furs”, Susan Olding, p. 99
    • A feminist law student examines her failing marriage and her affair with a professor in light of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
  • “The Good Man”, Chris Tarry, p. 114
    • Don’t look back, you might not like what you see . . .
  • “My Last Erotic Poem”, Lorna Crozier, p. 121
    • How lucky to be passionately in love with the man I met at a poetry workshop forty years ago; he is in my poems, in my life, and in my bed.

Struggles

  • “The Time of Useful Truths”, Rob Taylor, p. 124
    • “The Time of Useful Truths” is about the end of the beginning, and how easily it can be confused with the beginning of the end.
  • “Cooking Class & Marriage Lessons”, Jane Silcott, p. 125
    • A woman learns that every good meal, like every good marriage, includes a little grit.
  • “White Night”, Maureen Scott Harris, p. 128
    • A snoring partner— sleeplessness in the spare room— is this what marriage comes to?
  • “This Is a Love Story”, Michelle Kaeser, p. 130
    • An atheist crashes into frustrations and heartbreak when she begins a love affair with a devout believer.
  • “Sentry”, Juliane Okot Bitek, p. 146
    • The poet saw a young couple, asleep on the bus, that shimmered in their beauty and intimacy. Those of us who watched recognized how sleep had immortalized them, stopped time, held the ugliness of life at bay. In that moment they were perfect.
  • “On Being a Couples Therapist”, Toni Pieroni, p. 148
    • A couples therapist tells her story of venturing into the anxiety-provoking waters that many therapists avoid if they can.
  • “Sonoma”, Jane Munro, p. 155
    • A “battered blue Sonoma” carries the reader through a partner’s crossing into Alzheimer’s — which evokes other crossings as well: between empirical reportage and meditative apprehension, dream and wakefulness, Eastern and Western poetic traditions.
  • “Warm Animal”, Tana Runyan, p. 156
    • Hope and relief from cancer’s threat and toll can be found in the body’s own continuing, improbable radiance.
  • “Third Sutra”, Anne Simpson, p. 157
    • About a husband with dementia who is waiting in the hospital for long-term care placement, and his wife who visits him there.

Partings

  • “Cleave”, Rachel Rose, p. 160
    • A poem grappling with impending separation, and the necessary revision process that such a division forces in the story of a union.
  • “The Manual of Marriage Failures”, Eufemia Fantetti, p. 162
    • A user-friendly guide wherein the writer confirms that the leading cause of divorce is getting married.
  • “A Tree House of One’s Own”, Ellen McGinn, p. 167
    • After leaving her marriage and living alone for six years, a woman decided to return.
  • “La Cumparsita”, Karen Shklanka, p. 174
    • Sometimes the dance of marriage comes to an end: “La Cumparsita” is traditionally the last tango played at a milonga, or traditional Argentine tango dance.
  • “The Good Wife”, Samra Zafar, p. 175
    • Forced into an arranged marriage at age 16, a young woman copes with an abusive husband while struggling to pursue her long-held dream of continuing her education, eventually managing to escape.
  • “As Women Scorned”, Lauren McKeon, p. 185
    • Sometimes the most devastating news can also be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Death

  • “Are You Still Married?”, Lesley Buxton, p. 194
    • It’s not supposed to be like this. When three becomes two again: Expectations and marriage after the death of an only child.
  • “The End of a Marriage”, Donna Besel, p. 199
    • A resilient woman deals with the impact on her family of her husband’s mental illness and suicide.
  • “Your Body Is a Lone Tree”, Gina Leola Woolsey, p. 209
    • Both body and heart grieve as a woman contemplates Thoreau, the morgue, and her husband’s cancer prognosis.
  • “Gifts”, Elise Partridge, p. 213
    • After decades of shared memories, the greatest gift might be the simple words that reflect profound truths.

 

Celebration

  • “Valentine’s Day”, Barry Dempster, p. 216
    • A poem about true love, from the ridiculous to the sublime . . .
  • “On Anniversaries”, Mandy Len Catron, p. 218
    • An essay about anniversaries that reconsiders how we measure our commitments.
  • “Late Love Song, with an Orange: A Cento”, Maureen Hynes, p. 226
    • With this poem, the poet merged two wishes: to write a love poem to her partner, and to try her hand at a cento, a traditional poetic form that creates a “patchwork” by borrowing one line from the poems of several other poets.
  • “Maximum Security”, Susan Musgrave, p. 228
    • How many brides, on leaving the chapel, have to toss the bouquet over a fourteen-foot-high perimeter fence?
  • “Wedding Clothes & Marriage Blanket”, Joanne Arnott, p. 233
    • Metis writer Joanne Arnott tells a story of reunion and a first wedding in midlife.
  • “The Joy of the Ancient Marriers”, Andreas Schroeder, p. 241
    • “The Joy of the Ancient Marriers” promotes the premise that it’s really never too late to marry someone with whom you’ve been happily co-habiting for the past 30 years . . .