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Posted: Friday June 16, 2017
Mercedes Eng

Mercedes Eng teaches and writes in Vancouver, on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories. She is the author of two chapbooks, February 2010 (2010) and knuckle sandwich (2011), and of Mercenary English (CUE Books, 2013; Mercenary Press, 2016), a long poem about violence and resistance in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of Vancouver. Her writing has appeared in Jacket 2, The Downtown East, The Volcano, on the sides of the Burrard and Granville Bridges as contributions to public art projects, and in the collectively produced chapbooks, r/ally (No One Is Illegal), Surveillance, and M’aidez (Press Release). She is currently working on a women’s prison reader and a detective novel set in her grandfather’s Chinatown supper club, circa 1948.

LATEST Mercedes Eng NEWS

May 2018 : Prison Industrial Complex Explodes wins the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize!

March 2018 : Kirton and Eng short-listed for BC Book Prizes!

March 2018 : Poetry readings across Canada this week

November 2017 : Here’s to fifty more years of Talonbooks!

October 2017 : New poetry in the house!

August 2017 : Talon poets in Contemporary Verse 2: Convergence


Prison Industrial Complex Explodes

Winner of the 2018 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize


Mercenary English – 3rd edition

“Angry, righteous, and incensed … a book of rage, frustration, grief, and a call to action, as well as a critique of government inaction, social imbalances, and those that have allowed and even encouraged the silence of the disappeared … Eng knows that words themselves have power, and hers is a voice that needs to be encouraged by those who need to hear it, and feared by those who wish to suppress it.”
—rob mclennan

“One of the brightest young writers on the Vancouver scene, whose work combines tart insights into gender and racial relations, a playfulness of language not always found in political poetry, and a fine ear … [Eng uses] sampling, quotation, pastiche – call it what you will – both to implicate the hegemonic discourse of neoliberal police militarism (racism at home is tied to racism as foreign policy) and to keep herself in that mix, part of the problem. She’s angry, yes, but also too smart not to realize that some of that anger has to do with herself.”
—Clint Burnham, Lemon Hound

“I situate Mercenary English in a diverse line of revolutionary poetics – including those of writers like M. NourbeSe Philip, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Kamau Brathwaite, Cecilia Vicuña, Heriberto Yépez, and Laura Elrick, to name just a few … this weaponized English is a vulnerable and tender form of revolutionary poetics [that] erupt with insurrection.”
—Natalie Knight

“In Mercenary English, Mercedes Eng offers a full-throated contribution to the poetic zeitgeist that values social engagement, political documentation, and the creation of vibrant counter-narratives. Part poetic investigation, part street-level report-back, part ‘autocartography,’ Mercenary English is a tour de fightback where the political backdrop is ever-present in the foreground.”
—Jules Boykoff

“a mercenary pursuit to unsettle, rechart, and set ships in motion. woman at the helm. ‘dead, almost and alive’ making the money, women hold it down. honey cake. workshirts mended, an arsenal in her pocket, at the ready, everyday the frontlines. body of work on the table, more weapons in the drawer. ‘words are confusing … what’s the one for the big men dressed in boots and helmets holding shields, holding assault rifles?’ interlocking violences to be disarmed, we call war. with all her might Eng speaks from experience, intervenes to right the vertical, spits hard words that shine like justice and the concrete trembles. ‘the eagles know’”
—Cecily Nicholson

“she knows complicit explicit illicit attack apology abattoir she is poet opticon sposed she maps narrative down her turquoise hustle her vortex velocity slams scenes frontline back alley corner she is fierce flash authentic arsenal of poems she chants protest she lookin tight women in grid stare surveillance back she speaks sex sweet easy she says come in come out fill in whole sisters now know how Mercedes spells out stasis spance how disappeared women scream shout volatile skin of text strikes oscillates back upside down fist upward soars improbable limits of the expressible she is percussive what comes round”
—Marie Annharte Baker


Prison Industrial Complex Explodes

“Simple – but not simplistic – lines such as ‘i think about that yellow bead a lot’ reflect Eng’s exquisite attention and make me feel intimately connected to the poet-speaker. … [Other lines] reveal imagination and attention to lineation. … At once powerful and beautiful, gentle and urgent, I await more from this voice.”
—Doyali Islam in the Globe & Mail

"Eng, through diligent research and persistence, has unearthed and given life to this unbelievable (but too damned real) indictment of our alacrity at putting our citizens in prison. Eng’s case is clear and direct, she has ample, obvious, and odious proof that our joy of incarceration is aimed primarily at people of colour and it is rising rapidly."
—Today’s Book of Poetry

"An incredibly powerful and intimate exploration of the Canadian prison system and systematic racism through archival material and her own biography … Furthering the work of what has come before her, this is the long poem realized in an entirely new way, all while articulating some very difficult terrain."—rob mclennan

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