About the book

To be anonymous in today’s urban places is to be free yet isolated, in a constant flux of longing for and fear of “the dead and beating heart.” The faces Gunn confronts on the streets of the city make her book a compelling read—as does the “delicious anxiety” she sees hanging in ecstatic, sometimes terrifying suspense in the liminal spaces between.

About the author

Gunn, Genni

Genni Gunn is a writer, musician and translator. Born in Trieste, Italy, she came to Canada when she was eleven. She has published nine books: three novels – Solitaria, Tracing Iris and Thrice Upon a Time, two short story collections – Hungers and On The Road, two poetry collections – Faceless and Mating in Captivity, and translated from the Italian two collections of poems. Two of her books have also been translated into Italian.

Her work has been shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the John Glassco Translation Award and the Gerald Lampert Award, and her novel Tracing Iris is being made into a feature film. Her opera Alternate Visions premiered in Montreal in 2007 and was projected in a simulcast at The Western Front in Vancouver. Before she turned to writing full-time, Genni toured Canada extensively with a variety of bands (bass guitar, piano and vocals). Since then, she has performed at hundreds of readings and writers’ festivals. She lives in Vancouver, where she teaches half-time at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.


Like Ruins

Three weeks they prod calibrate x-ray
bones muscles gauge seismic signatures

delicate and black like ruins
rows of stones radiating from a cairn

When I hear the word I imagine The Tropic
of Cancer your body stretched around

the earth your body the earth Mexico
Egypt India Saudi Arabia China

the sun in June directly overhead
You are cut-away in profile an exotic terrain

faults a sediment of sentiments layers
of lovers the youngest lying between

rivers in the high plateau of the Italian Murge
the oldest leaning against Vancouver sky

You are landscape a place to point to YOU ARE
HERE like the red dot on a mall schematic

boxed in by lines and squares the earth suddenly flat
a constellation a crab in the northern hemisphere

clawing the night sky YOU ARE HERE an X
ray irradiating fear

you push us away take solace in your solo dance
your breast a thermal aureole a tropic

of cancer while we arc low in the sky
Druids used stones surgeons a knife

rituals to spur the sun to burn
stave off light




In crowds strangers jostle against her
arms and legs In lineups people elbow

in front of her In bars men stare
past her She spends a quarter of her pay

on cosmetics – eye shadows liners blushes
foundations glows – the rainbow captive

in small compacts And still she is


A quarrel rising counterpoint the girls shrill
demand to the mother's martyred sobs

bickers pleas pouts banal exchanges all shout
ultimtums the girls slam into the night

thirteen fifteen their bodies high-risk machines
the mother calls but they don't veer

the dog barks twice then settles on the rug
the woman slumps in front of her TV

today she lost her job her husband gone
and now her girls she reaches in her purse

draws out the vial of pills she'll sleep tonight
no matter what she'll sleep and show them all


Her dog is a loyal creature He ogles her
through one slit eye

Dogs are heroic They dive underwater
off 80-foot cliffs to save people from drowning

they climb mountains and dig for avalanche victims
one dog waited twelve years for his master

in the lobby of a hospital where he had last seen him
This woman's dog at first is not perturbed by her

lying on the couch accustomed to her sluggish ruts
Reality TV but as the hours lapse

and the woman doesn't stir he licks her hand and face
still no response he licks and licks her mouth and nose

his paws now claw her chin he panics nips at her lifeless lips
she finally hears the whine struggles a resurrection

He saved her life her daughters say
this dog who mauled their mother's face



3. Animations

Not so different from what happens
in the middle years you fall in love again

stupidly like the first time only you're afraid
to let yourself be drawn in frame by frame

remembering your past imperfect tracings
of a lover's pencil how his animation

created static movements your hair
a spider's web your mouth a Venus flytrap

and he always the fly and when you said
I love you he sketched a hand in farewell

perhaps it's better left to computer morphing
less margin for error just key in first meeting

and render the final kiss embrace
the random graphics in between

From Genni Gunn

How do you balance writing, teaching and all the other things you do? In short: how DO you do it?

First of all, for context, let me say that I am the type of person who could never do one thing only. No matter how much I protest (weakly) that I have too much to do, the fact is that I thrive on activity and challenge. So I am constantly taking on new ventures, thinking up new projects, saying yes to everything, and then figuring out how to do it all.

So, that said, how do I balance it all?

My main activities are writing (and this entails a variety of projects and genres), teaching creative writing, manuscript evaluation and…

June 2011 / Comment icon9 comments


What was your inspiration for Solitaria?

The inspiration for the book came in the form of a question I wanted to explore. Here is the background that led to it. A relative of mine – an old aunt who lives in Italy – appeared to me to have been forgotten by everyone in her old age, not physically – she had excellent care and contact – but emotionally. Like Piera, the protagonist of Solitaria, my old aunt felt that she didn’t deserve to be abandoned in this way. She believed she had been very generous throughout her life – and she had – and had looked…

June 2011



In the poems in Faceless, Genni Gunn explores the many masks worn and peeled away in attempts at formulating identity, influencing opinion and finding a place in vast, nullifying or unforgiving landscapes. Sometimes it is nature masking itself as benign,… >>


When I first open Faceless, I am grateful for the familiar, a poet engaging with the world, a specifically Canadian world, celebrating place and our relationships with it. The first section, wEstSCAPES, explores both the physical and the personal along… >>

— J.M Bridgeman Prairie Fire

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