The Small Way

Onjana Yawnghwe

S H O R T L I S T E D   F O R   T H E   D O R O T H Y   L I V E S A Y  P O E T R Y   P R I Z E

What strange gravity draws two people together? What pulls them apart?

In The Small Way, a woman re-evaluates herself and her marriage as she comes to terms with a spouse’s transition. Intimate and powerful, the poems celebrate the courage of a partner coming out as a trans woman and records the confusion in facing a partner’s changing gender identity. Speaking to the tenderness that exists between two people, the book explores shifting bodies and changing emotional landscapes, and examines what it really means to love someone. The poems reside in the stillness of two bodies and in the intersection between time and grief. The Small Way is a passionate record of love and loss, and a naked exploration of vulnerability. The book is an elegy to love and memory, a chronicle of holding on and letting go.

“Onjana Yawnghwe’s The Small Way is a book that has never before been written: poems of love & grief for a spouse’s transitions to becoming a woman within the continued cradle of support that art and empathy creates. From acknowledging the gentleness that was at the heart of the bond to dealing with the weariness that learning how to cope with another’s transformations brings, Yawnghwe’s poetry is searingly honest, steeped in lyrical resonances that attempt to effect and honour her own transition to a different kind of relationship with the person she once married, and with her own fragile, fierce self: still singing, ‘still, it shines.’”
—Catherine Owen, author of The Day of the Dead

“Yawnghwe rigorously examines how falling out of a lovers’ narrative is more shattering than falling out of love itself. Gender is dissected and disassembled as her spouse transitions, as is the very notion of intimacy itself. Eloquent. Startling original.”
—Betsy Warland, author of Oscar of Between

Deftly aphoristic, startlingly vivid and affecting, The Small Way breaks open the love poem and presents us with a vital story of change, loss and persistence. Each line resonates with the fundamental mystery of other lives, other bodies, other desires, yet the book is also suffused with indelible traces of connection. This is some of the finest writing on love in recent years.
—Warren Cariou, director of the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, University of Manitoba

Shortlisted for the 2019 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize