Chronic Poetics and the Poetry of Chronic Illness (in a Global Pandemic)


  • Emilia Nielsen York University


In this paper, I query what the poetry and poetics of chronic illness might offer now, in the time of a pandemic. In doing so, I take up Hillary Gravendyk’s “chronic poetics” which brims with generative potential especially when focused on the poetry and poetics of chronic illness which presents unique insights—not to mention poetic forms—into how to live with uncertainty. Specifically, I turn to Fionncara MacEoin’s Not the First Thing I’ve Missed (2014), Anna Swanson’s The Nights Also (2010), and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Bodymap (2015) in order to illustrate why chronic illness is a poignant site of living in precarity but also in “collective affinity” (Kafer 10). The poetry and poetics of chronic illness provides a crucial site to explore feminist, queer and crip experience in giving voice to the intensity of living with mind, body and/or bodymind unpredictability.

Author Biography

Emilia Nielsen, York University

Emilia Nielsen is the author of a scholarly text, Disrupting Breast Cancer Narratives: Stories of Rage and Repair (University of Toronto Press, 2019), and two collections of poetry. Body Work (Signature Editions, 2018) was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, the League of Canadian Poets’ Pat Lowther Memorial Award, and took third place in the Fred Cogswell Award for Excellence in Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Surge Narrows (Leaf Press, 2013), was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. She is Assistant Professor of Arts, Medicine and Healing in the Health & Society Program at York University.