community: literature review: How Poetry Saved My Life, a hustler’s memoir—Amber Dawn



Amber Dawn’s untraditional memoir chronicles her experiences as a sex-worker in the streets and massage parlours of Vancouver and celebrates her self as a prostitute, poet, writer, student, queer femme, lover, friend, and woman. She arranges poetry and short essays into three sections—Outside, Inside, and Inward. As the book segments suggests, the memoir begins with a more external look at sex work and leads the reader seamlessly into Amber Dawn’s own personal opening. She is a rough and tough woman, but possesses the strength and vulnerability to let the reader into her most intimate corners by the end of the book.

I absolutely loved Amber Dawn’s voice. Her experiences are so radically different to my own—she grew up in a broken, working class family, fled town with a traveling carnival after high-school, and eventually used her money from sex-work to get an MFA in creative writing—yet her words are written with such rawness, honestly, and also tenderness that she fills you up with feeling and thought and reflection. Amber Dawn is engaging. She takes you through some hard and frightening situations, but she is supportive, she guides you. She even breaks her narrative at one point to ask you, the reader, how you are feeling, if you are worried. She constantly presses us to learn to take something we are uncomfortable or unsure about, like sex-work, and make an attempt to grapple with it, enter conversation with it. She reminds us that there are many things we are tacitly told we should not talk about, so many things that we are not allowed to have dialogue on. We have to ask ourselves, why don’t we talk about certain things? How do we make space for these taboo subjects in the panorama of life?

The book begins–

I offer you this cracked teacup, a potted plant that falls, drunken

youth who wrap their cars around lamp posts, women break

barstools, bathroom mirrors, jawbones, neighbors who go missing,–“

And ends—

Now you stand in this world as someone who is completely loved. From this point of view, who knows what poetry is yet to come?”

Buy the book here: How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir: Amber Dawn: 9781551525006: Books.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s