From the Klondike to an all-girls summer camp to the frontier of outer space, Gold Rush explores what it means to be a settler woman in the wilderness. Drawing on and subverting portrayals of nature from Susanna Moodie to Cheryl Strayed, Caldwell’s poems examine the tension between the violence and empowerment women have often sought and found in wild places; this is the violence young girls inflict on each other; colonial violence perpetrated by white, settler women; violence against nature itself. Many of these poems portray a climate in crisis, suggesting that even wilderness buffs are complicit in climate change. Whether they’re trekking the Chilkoot Trail, exploring the frontiers of their own bodies and desires, or navigating an unstable, unfamiliar climate, the girls and women in these poems are pioneers—in all the complexities contained by the term.
Claire Caldwell is a writer, a children’s book editor at Annick Press, and a kids’ writing workshop facilitator. Her debut poetry collection, Invasive Species (Wolsak and Wynn), was named one of The National Post’s top five poetry books of 2014. Claire was a 2016 writer in residence at the Berton House in Dawson City, Yukon, and the 2013 winner of The Malahat Review’s Long Poem Prize. She has an MFA from the University of Guelph. Claire lives in Toronto.
“There is something in Caldwell’s candour, verbal energy, and her roving eye for material that made me smile often, that reinforced my hope in language and the peculiar clarity of poetry… Caldwell always let her wit, plus the imagery and connections of poetry do their wonderful work.”—The Fiddlehead
“Caldwell manages a feat many poets attempt and few achieve: making pop culture imagery actually work to emotional affect… Caldwell’s always adept at fun but exact imagery: “Sometimes the day / is a dead trout / and night slams over it / like a cooler’s lid.” Who hasn’t had one of those days?”—Winnipeg Free Press
“Gold Rush conjures images of women exploring the natural world, pushing against stereotypes embedded in Canadian “frontier” stories…Here women take up their rightful space.”—Kim Fahner, Herizons
“A salute to Neil Young’s enduring prophecy, ‘mother nature on the run,’ but it’s scarier now—it’s not the 1970s. Claire Caldwell is an environmental doomsayer, but she’s also a comedic, antic storyteller, and she’s great at dark endings. Wilderness women are her storytellers; they speak with the melancholy of country music. ‘One day, I vanished,’ says one. Another says, ‘To wear the moon like a breast.’ From actresses fording a river: ‘Applause had softened us.’ Nothing soft about these poems.”—John Irving
“Claire Caldwell’s second collection starts with a mammoth shinbone, stored in her parents’ garage. And it gets weirder and more ordinary from there, from the erasure poem Caldwell created from the diaries of homesteading women, full of longing and disconnection, to the epic anti-nature poem ‘How to See Moose.’ Caldwell reminds us, magically, savagely, that we have celestial bodies but, also, that we are all meat. My only response? ‘Oh, yes, this.'”—Ariel Gordon